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Three California inmates recaptured: Did security lapses enable their escape?

Deputies at the Orange County jail that housed the three inmates had complained for a year that the jail wasn't following departmental policy on inmate counts.

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    San Francisco Police spokeswoman Grace Gatpandan speaks at a news conference at Park Police Station in San Francisco, Saturday. San Francisco police were responding about Saturday to an unrelated call when a woman said she saw a parked van that looked like the one authorities said the fugitives had stolen, according to Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. As officers approached, Hossein Nayeri started running and was caught after a short chase. Officers then went back to the van and found Jonathan Tieu hiding, the sheriff said.
    Jeff Chiu/AP
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It took eight days and an exhaustive statewide manhunt to recapture three violent inmates after a California jailbreak, but with last of the inmates taken into custody on Saturday attention will return to how they were able to escape the jail – specifically why it took so long for jailers to notice their absence.

There have been changes in jail operations since the escape, but no firings. The recapture of the inmates will now trigger an intensive investigation into how the inmates escaped from the maximum-security facility, says Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

"We will be looking top to bottom on that," she said, according to the Associated Press. "We do not want another escape from an Orange County jail."

The final two inmates were apprehended on Saturday in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park after a civilian alerted police officers to a van similar to one the inmates were believed to be using. Hossein Nayeri was caught after a short foot chase. Jonathan Tieu, who was found in the van with ammunition but no weapons, surrendered to authorities.

The third escaped inmate, Bac Duong, had surrendered to authorities on Friday after walking into an auto-repair shop in Santa Ana, a few miles from the jail. All three inmates have now been returned to Orange County. 

They escaped in the early morning of Jan. 22, sawing through a metal grate covering a plumbing tunnel, then crawling through the tunnel to reach the jail’s roof, where they rappelled four stories to the ground using a rope made of bedsheets.

While much remains unclear about the escape, jailers have been criticized for the fact it took 16 hours for anyone to realize the inmates were missing from the 65-inmate cell block.

Deputies in the jail had complained for nearly a year that department policy on inmate counts was not being followed, according to the head of the deputies union.

Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, wrote in a letter sent to Sheriff Hutchens on Friday that his members "received push-back from jail management with the justification that, 'This is the way we have always done it.' "

Mr. Dominguez has called for the dismissal of the man who runs the jail, Capt. Chris Wilson, but Hutchens has said she wouldn’t comment until an investigation into the escape is complete. Authorities are interviewing the inmates to learn more details about the escape, including how they obtained cutting tools and how they evaded capture outside the jail.

So far there has been one additional arrest in connection with the escape: Nooshafarin Ravaghi, an Iran-born English-language teacher at the jail, who gave Mr. Nayeri a copy of a Google Earth map showing an aerial view of the jail, according to authorities.

Ms. Ravaghi is being held pending a court appearance set for Monday. Authorities say she and Nayeri, who was also born in Iran and was in her class, exchanged letters and had a relationship which, while not romantic, was closer than it should have been.

The escape of two convicted murderers from a prison in upstate New York in June resulted in 12 employees being placed on administrative leave, including the superintendent, along with a raft of new security measures, including more frequent searches of inmates' cells, more thorough bed checks, and the installation of security gates in the facility’s tunnels.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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