Escaped Orange County inmates spent nearly a week in the Bay Area

This image provided by the Orange County, Calif., Sheriff's Department on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, shows three jail inmates charged with violent crimes who escaped from the Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana, Calif. The men from left are, 37-year-old Hossein Nayeri, charged with kidnapping and torture; 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu, who is charged with murder, and 43-year-old Bac Duong, charged with attempted murder. Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock said Saturday that the inmates were last seen at 5 a.m. on Friday and could have escaped anytime between then and late Friday night. (Orange County Sheriff's Department via AP)

(KRON/BCN) — Three inmates who escaped from jail in Orange County last month spent as many as five nights in the Bay Area before two of them were apprehended in San Francisco on Saturday, an Orange County sheriff’s captain said Monday.

The third returned to the Southern California area a day earlier after getting into an argument with his accomplice over whether to kill a taxi driver they kidnapped and forced to drive them to San Jose, sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Hallock said at a news conference this morning.

Bac Duong, 43, was arrested back in Rosemead on Friday, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, and Jonathan Tieu, 20, were arrested after a tipster spotted them parked at a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, Hallock said. The arrests ended an exhaustive statewide manhunt for the suspects.

Duong was booked on attempted murder charges, Nayeri on kidnapping and torture charges and Tieu on murder charges.

The three met in jail over the last two years and spent the last six months planning an escape together. Hallock declined to release any new details of the escape Monday, but said they left the jail shortly after a 4:45 a.m. inmate count on Jan. 22.

They were picked up by an accomplice at 5:15 a.m. and taken to Westminster. They spent the rest of the day moving between Westminster, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana, where they contacted friends and family and somehow acquired cash and a gun, Hallock said.

It wasn’t until about 9 p.m. that night when deputies at the jail conducted another count and realized they had escaped.

That same night, they hailed a taxi in Garden Grove to drive to Rosemead, where they went shopping at Target. But rather then send the taxi driver on his way, they stuck the gun in his ribcage and told him he was coming with them, according to Hallock.

The three fugitives and the taxi driver spent that night in a hotel somewhere in Los Angeles County, Hallock said.

The next day, they went to a hair salon to change their appearance and then forced the taxi driver to take them to respond to a Craigslist posting in Los Angeles for a white GMC utility van. Duong took the van for a test drive but never returned it, Hallock said.

Despite stealing the van, they continued holding the taxi driver hostage and spent the next two nights at the Flamingo Inn in Rosemead. On Jan. 25, Tieu mailed a letter to his mother from the Garden Grove post office. Hallock said investigators believe this was a diversion to give the false impression they were still in Southern California before leaving for the Bay Area.

They spent Tuesday night at the Alameda Motel in San Jose, with the cab driver still their prisoner. While there, Nayeri and Duong had an argument over whether to kill the cab driver. Duong objected to Nayeri’s plan to kill the cabbie and bury his body, Hallock said.

They continued staying at the hotel, but on Thursday, when Nayeri and Tieu left to get the van’s windows tinted, Duong left with the cab driver and returned to Rosemead. He surrendered on Friday.

The sheriff’s department announced his arrest and said they learned the remaining fugitives were likely in Northern California from information provided by Duong as well as other jail inmates.

But it was an alert citizen who recognized the van from media reports that led to their capture. The man spotted the van at the Whole Foods at 690 Stanyan St. in San Francisco at 8:50 a.m. Saturday.

The man alerted a nearby police officer, and San Francisco police arrested Nayeri after a short foot pursuit. They found Tieu hiding in the van, Hallock said. Ammunition was recovered in the van but no gun was found.

No one was injured in the arrest. Nayeri and Tieu were returned to Orange County on Sunday and were booked back into jail in isolation since they are considered an escape risk. They were scheduled to be arraigned on escape charges Monday, Hallock said.

The three had assistance from other inmates and people outside the jail in planning their escape, including from an English as a second language teacher at the jail who provided Nayeri with aerial photographs of the jail from Google Earth. That teacher was arrested but later released without being charged.

No Orange County Sheriff’s Department employees have been implicated in the escape so far. The sheriff’s department is reviewing its security procedures, Hallock said.

The escape is “something we’re not proud of. We’re embarrassed, we feel like we let the public down,” Hallock said.

Hallock said more arrests are anticipated as investigators learn more about how the inmates escaped.

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