Orange County, Ca., sheriff's investigators were searching for three dangerous prisoners who escaped from the county jail by cutting through half-inch steel bars, making their way through plumbing tunnels and then rappelling from the roof using a makeshift rope, the Los Angeles Times reports. “This appears to be a very sophisticated operation,” Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said of the escape, the first at the jail in nearly 30 years. Jonathan Tieu, 20, Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, were discovered missing from the jail on Friday. Tieu is charged with murder, Duong with attempted murder, and Nayeri with kidnapping and torture.
There was a fight inside the facility before they were discovered missing that may have been part of the escape plan. The fight delayed the nighttime headcount. The inmates were discovered missing when the headcount was completed about 9 p.m. The inmates were able to get past security points in at least three areas, accessing the jail’s plumbing system, apparently using tools to cut through metal bars and bedsheets to descend at least four stories to reach the ground, authorities said. How they got those tools and how they went undetected is still unknown. Hutchens said, “People in jail have a lot of time to sit around and think about ways to defeat our systems.” The jail houses more than 900 inmates. About 80 percent are felons, with more than 384 in custody for murder, attempted murder and other serious, violent crimes. The jail, built in 1968, is a hulking concrete compound in Santa Ana’s civic center, its sheer concrete walls rising several stories. The roof is lined with loops of barbed wire.