Authorities are still searching for the three inmates who brazenly escaped from prison in Orange Country, California, last week. Though the fugitives have so far dodged police, officials have now arrested five people in the course of their investigation into the break. Some of those taken into custody have alleged gang ties, and police say it’s likely that more people will be arrested or hauled in for questioning.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department didn’t go into much detail on who those five individuals were or why they were in prison. Police were also mum on which gangs they’re targeting, but according to the Los Angeles Times, they’re zeroing in on Vietnamese communities in two county neighborhoods. Authorities believe that at least two of them, 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu and 43-year-old Bac Tien Duong, have ties to a Vietnamese gang.
There’s currently a $200,000 reward out for Tieu and Duong and the other escapee, 37-year-old Hossein Nayeri, who’s believed to be the mastermind behind the whole operation. The three men, who were locked up on charges for very serious but separate crimes, cut through layers of steel and metal, slipped through the plumbing, and twisted bedsheets into rope so they could leap from the facility’s rooftop. Police haven’t yet recovered the tools they used to do this, but they’re pretty certain the men had at least a little outside help — and possibly inside — to pull off such a bold break. “The question is: how do you get cutting tools into the jail?” said the Orange County sheriff-coroner Sandra Hutchens at a press conference Wednesday.
Prison officials have also tightened the inmate head-count system to avoid a lapse like the one that gave the inmates a very generous 16-hour head start, reports the Los Angeles Times. The prisoners likely escaped sometime after the 5 a.m. count, and nobody realized they were gone until the end-of-day check-in around 9 p.m. Corrections officers were supposed to conduct something called paper checks during the day — basically tracking inmates as they moved from different places within the jail, and making sure prisoners reported to the locations they were supposed to be in. The jail is now doubling down on these checks, which were done on the day Tieu, Dong, and Nayeri escaped — but nobody raised any red flags or appeared to notice these guys were missing.
And the sheriff’s department is having a really lousy week even beyond the Real Fugitives of Orange County. On Wednesday, it reported that one of its officers accidentally left his AR-15 rifle on the trunk of his car, forgot about it, and drove away. While many of us have been there, albeit maybe not with an automatic weapon, the firearm still hasn’t been recovered, so add it to the list of things the sheriff’s department is scouring the county for these days.