Local and federal cops are hunting for three inmates they say used tools to cut through steel and ropes fashioned from linen to escape from the Orange County Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana, California, this weekend. The inmates—described by authorities as "very dangerous"—have been identified as 43-year-old Bac Duong, 37-year-old Hossein Nayeri, and 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu, as the New York Times reports.
The men escaped sometime after the 5 AM headcount on Friday, but weren't discovered missing until a count originally scheduled for 8 PM that night. That count got delayed when a fight between inmates broke out, and guards finally realized the men were absent around nine. The Orange County Sheriff's Office is operating under the assumption that the fight may have been staged as a diversion, and the men may be armed, as the Associated Press reports.
Each inmate is accused of horrific crimes, including one involving the genitals of a pot shop owner that almost sounds too heinous to be real.
Tieu has been charged with murder and attempted murder, and has been held since 2013 on $1 million bond. Nayeri is charged with taking part in the kidnapping and torture of a marijuana dispensary owner in 2012, which allegedly included burning him with a blowtorch and cutting off the man's penis. He then jetted to his home country of Iran, got nabbed in central Europe, and was extradited. Like Duong—who among other things is charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon—Nayeri was being held without bail.
The men were housed in a dormitory-style cell they shared with 65 other inmates. Sometime after the early-morning headcount on Friday, they apparently cut through half-inch steel bars hidden behind a bed in their unit, forced their way into a plumbing tunnel, and made their way to an unsecured part of the jailhouse roof. "This was clearly a well-thought-out and planned escape," Orange County Sheriff's Spokesman Lieutenant Jeff Hallock said at a Sunday press conference.
Using a makeshift "rope" cops believe was fashioned out of bed sheets and jail clothes, the inmates got around barbed wire and rappelled down a roof to the ground four stories below. It is not yet known what tools they used to cut through steel, or—as was the case in a certain high profile escape in upstate New York last year—if they had any help from within the facility. Hallock said that while catching the men was the priority, police were conducting a separate probe to determine how they got out and whether any other inmates or jail employees were involved.
It's also not known whether or not the inmates fled in their jumpsuits or were able to change clothes in the escape, which was the first in more than 20 years from the jail.
"I've been in law enforcement for 37 years, always working for sheriff's departments that manage jails," Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said at the press conference. "Escapes do occur from time to time. We try and limit that. We learn from the mistakes. I can tell you that this is a very sophisticated-looking operation. People in jail have a lot of time to sit around and think about ways to defeat our systems."
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