Cops: California escapees kidnapped cab driver, argued about whether to kill him

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Bac Duong, Hossein Nayeri, and Jonathan Tieu, left to right, are shown in photos released by Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Bac Duong, Hossein Nayeri, and Jonathan Tieu, left to right, are shown in photos released by Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Three California jail escapees, all with violent criminal histories, shopped at a Target, took a taxi driver hostage, argued over whether to kill the driver and went to a hair salon to change their look all in about a week's time that they were on the lam, Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jeff Hallock said Monday.

Jonathan Tieu, 20, was in jail on murder charges; Hossein Nayeri, 37, was in jail for allegedly torturing and kidnapping; and Bac Tien Duong, 43, was facing attempted murder charges. Each had pleaded not guilty.

They have been captured, and every time they are moved into the maximum security Orange County men's jail they have escorts, Hallock said. Rather than being kept together as before in a pod with other inmates, each is now kept alone in separate cells.

At a press conference, Hallock ran through a timeline that began January 22 at around 5 a.m. when the three made their escape, a well-planned maneuver that Hallock said authorities believe was hatched over six months. The men used tools to cut through security bars in a plumbing tunnel and into air vents, officials said, and apparently used sheets braided into ropes to rappel down four to five stories -- about 50 feet -- from the roof of the jail.

The inmates made it out of the jail after a routine head count, Hollack said, explaining that officials didn't realize the three were missing for close to 16 hours until there was another head count.

A person picked the men up and drove them to Westminster which is in Orange County. They constantly changed houses in Westminster, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana, Hollack said.

The inmates called a taxi, stuck a gun in the driver's ribs and ordered him to drive to a Target where the men shopped. It's unclear where they got the money to do that, Hallock said.

The men forced the taxi driver to stay with them for days. On January 27, Nayeri and Duong got into a physical fight over whether to kill the driver.

The next day when Tieu and Nayeri went out to have the windows tinted on a van they had stolen, Duong, with the cab driver, drove back to Rosemead, California. Duong went to a family auto parts store and a relative called 911. Authorities quickly took him into custody, Hollack said.

On Saturday January 30, a man in San Francisco noticed the white van in a Whole Foods parking lot and flagged down an officer.

After a short foot chase, Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu were arrested.

There were .38-caliber rounds found in the van but neither fugitive had a weapon, authorities said.

Hollack said authorities are still trying to ascertain exactly how the men escaped and what they did while out. The inmates are giving some details, but not the entire story, he said.

"We're embarrassed," he said. "We feel like we let the public down."

It was the first time anyone had escaped from the jail since 1988.

Detectives are trying to determine whether anyone helped the men.

A woman who taught classes in English as a second language at the jail was arrested Thursday in connection with the escape. Nooshafarin Ravaghi, 44, will face a charge of being an accessory to a felony, Hallock said. It is unclear whether Ravaghi has an attorney.

She has denied giving the escapees tools, Hallock said, but she has admitted giving a Google Earth image, on paper, showing the area around the jail complex, to Nayeri.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.