SANTA ANA, Calif.— Police arrested one of three violent fugitive inmates on Friday after he told a woman in the same city where the jailbreak occurred a week ago that he wanted to surrender, authorities said. The other two men remained at large.
Bac Duong, 43, was taken into custody in Santa Ana, where the trio made their brazen escape on Jan. 22 from the maximum security facility, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said.
Lee Tran, an owner of Auto Electric Rebuilders, said Duong came to the shop looking for Tran’s sister, Theresa, and told her that he wanted to surrender.
“He was scared for his life, pretty much,” Tran said. “That’s why he asked one of our people to turn him in.”
Tran says his sister called 911 and Duong stood outside, smoked a cigarette and waited for police, who arrived minutes later.
Tran said his sister’s boyfriend knows Duong and marshals had come by to speak with her earlier this week because she might have visited Duong in jail.
Shortly after the late-morning arrest, a team of well-armed officers in protective vests swarmed the business.
Hutchens declined to provide any further details at a hastily called news conference that lasted less than three minutes.
“We just got this information and as you can imagine we are pretty busy working this,” she said, adding that authorities were still searching for a white van they believe Duong had stolen last week.
Authorities previously said the fugitives were likely still together and might be living out of the van.
Search warrants were executed late Thursday at a warehouse and a private residence in Westminster. Two people were detained and later released.
The investigation was focused on a Vietnamese gang, but Lt. Jeff Hallock, a sheriff’s spokesman, declined to elaborate. Authorities have made at least 10 arrests involving warrants and probation violations during the investigation and search.
Duong, 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu and 37-year-old Hossein Nayeri had all been awaiting trial for separate violent crimes. They were held in a dormitory with about 65 other men in the jail about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
The men escaped in the early morning hours after cutting a hole in a metal grate then crawling through plumbing tunnels and onto the roof of a five-story jail building.
They pushed aside barbed wire and rappelled down using a rope made of bed sheets.
It took jail staff 16 hours to realize the three men were missing.
On Thursday, authorities arrested a woman who taught English inside the jail and told investigators she helped Nayeri plan the escape.
Nooshafarin Ravaghi, 44, gave Nayeri a paper copy of a Google Earth map that showed an aerial view of the entire jail compound, Hallock said.
She was booked on suspicion of being an accessory to a felony and was being held pending a court appearance set for Monday. It wasn’t clear if she had a lawyer.
Ravaghi and Nayeri also exchanged “personal and close” handwritten letters, but Hallock could not say if the two were romantically involved.
“It wasn’t the relationship that you would expect between a teacher and an inmate in a custody setting,” he said.
It wasn’t clear why Nayeri was allowed to take Ravaghi’s class because he spoke fluent English.
“Why he was attending that class … that is very much of a concern for us,” Hallock said.
It also wasn’t clear why jail deputies, who read all inmate correspondence, didn’t flag the letters.
Ravaghi, who was born, like Nayeri, in Iran, was working as a part-time English instructor a local community college district and had taken a sheriff’s class on jail rules and how to avoid manipulation by inmates, officials said.
It was the first escape in nearly three decades from the California facility built in 1968 that holds 900 men.
Tieu had been held on a $1 million bond since October 2013 on charges of murder and attempted murder. Nayeri had been held without bond since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary.
Duong has been held without bond since last month on charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and other charges in a gang shooting.
Immigration authorities and records indicate that he had been ordered deported to Vietnam in 1998 but remained in the U.S.