Orange County Central Men’s Jail, Santa Ana, California
January 22, 2016

A little after the 4:45am count on January 22, 2016 three men escaped from the Orange County Central Men’s Jail. After the escape the three men became the subject of an elaborate manhunt to re-capture them. Two of the men remained on the run for a week and made it all the way to San Francisco before being apprehended.

The escape was a media sensation, and it was reported that in order to escape the three men had to cut through at least four layers of metal, steel, and rebar in the dormitory and climb through unsecured plumbing tunnels to make their way to the roof, before finally rappelling to the ground using a makeshift rope of knotted bedsheets and cloth.

After the three men reached the street outside they jail, they were picked up by an accomplice and driven to Westminster. By the evening after their escape, when the police first registered their absence, the three were shopping at a Target in Rosemead. Around this time the three men began traveling with a taxi driver, though accounts diverge on the details of this relationship. The police and much of the media allege that the three men kidnapped the driver, while Nayeri, in his account of the escape, implied that it was not a kidnapping and that the three men actually were intending to assist the taxi driver.

On the day after their escape, the three escapees allegedly stole a large white van. After this they checked into a motel in Rosemead, a city only a 45-minute drive from the jail they escaped from. A few days later they drove to San Jose. By this point the reward offered by the sheriff for information relating to their capture had increased to $200,000. The police also began arresting a series of people who were accused of being involved with the escape, including an ESL teacher who worked at Central Men’s.

On January 29, one of the escapees, Bac Tien Duong, surrendered to the police. In Nayeri’s account of the situation, he claims that Duong himself attempted to collect the reward for information about his whereabouts. On Saturday, January 30, someone recognized the remaining two escapees in a Whole Foods parking lot in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. After the police were called, a brief chase ensued before the police finally apprehended both Nayeri and Tieu.

A fourth man was also arrested and charged with helping the three escapees get out of jail. He was charged with smuggling a deadly weapon and other materials to aid escape into the jail between January 12 – January 16.

One year after the escape the sheriff’s lieutenant who was the spokesperson during the search for the fugitives was promoted within the department. The sheriff’s department also spent nearly $570,000 in order to “harden” the jail in the wake of the escape. A year after the escape, investigators were still not sure how Nayeri had acquired the large amount of cutting tools used to pull off the escape.

Over a year later, Nayeri and his lawyer released an edited video to the media that includes Nayeri’s narrative of the entire escape as well as pictures and video footage taken on a contraband cell phone. In the video, Nayeri argues that the police and media distorted much of the truth about the escape in order to demonize the escapees as well as sensationalize the escape itself.

Citations:

Timeline: Orange County Jail escape“, 89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio.

Full Coverage: Three inmates escape from Orange County jail“, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2016.

OC jail escapees came to Bay Area by taxi, fought over killing driver“, ABC 7 News, February 1, 2016.

One year later, Orange County jail escape still has unanswered questions“, The OCR, January 23, 2017.

OC Inmates Filmed Their Own Daring Jail Break on Contraband Cellphone“, NBC Los Angeles, July 25, 2017.