(SANTA ANA, Calif.) — As authorities continue their search for three inmates who allegedly broke out of a California jail recently, officials with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department responded Tuesday to criticism that the prisoners, all facing violent criminal charges, had not been housed securely.
On Monday, deputy district attorney Heather Brown criticized Orange County Men’s Central Jail, from which Hossein Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Tien Duong allegedly escaped from Friday, say procedures at the jail needed to be “looked into.”
“It’s mind-boggling that he (Nayeri) was housed in a dorm with such low-level security,” said Brown, the prosecutor handling Nayeri’s case.
In a news conference on Tuesday, authorities with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said that while the sheriff was “troubled” by the amount of time the inmates were unaccounted for, the department was reviewing its body-count process and has already made changes.
“Based on the initial investigation, we feel very confident that each of the three escaped inmates were housed appropriately in a maximum-security jail,” Lieutenant Jeff Hallock, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
Hallock said that the trio was housed in a holding area containing 68 inmates and 50 percent of them were violent crime offenders.
Brown called Nayeri, 37, charged with torture and kidnapping in a 2012 incident, according to a police release, “diabolical.”
Nayeri, Tieu and Duong allegedly broke out of the jail, cutting through steel bars in their group holding area and traveling through plumbing pipes before reaching the roof. Authorities said they allegedly repelled down with makeshift rope and ran away on foot.
“My first reaction was, ‘Oh, my God.’ … He (Nayeri) is sophisticated, incredibly violent and cunning. … He’ll do whatever it takes to not be in jail,” Brown told the OC Register.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas released a statement Tuesday calling Brown’s comments “inappropriate, uninformed and rash.”
“Those statements were not authorized by me or anyone from the OCDA (Orange County District Attorney). Those statements do not reflect the position of the OCDA,” Rackauckas said.
Nayeri’s lawyer Salvatore Ciulla said he’d read the prosecutor’s comments on Tuesday. He said he was hoping for a “peaceful surrender” of the inmates.
“I feel the same nervousness for [the inmates,] for the police,” Ciulla told ABC News. “I don’t know what kind of situation there will be if and when they meet up. I’m hoping it’s not a violent end to this.”
Authorities said the inmates were last seen around 5 a.m. Friday in their holding area and were not reported missing until 9 p.m. that night. Their escape was confirmed around midnight, giving them a 16-hour head start on authorities. Authorities said that Tieu was a documented Vietnamese gang member and that Duong was associated with the same gang.
According to a news release put out by the sheriff’s department, Tieu, 20, is charged with murder and Duong, 43, with attempted murder.
In March 2011, Tieu allegedly fought with a group from a rival gang and shot into a car, killing one person. Duong is accused of shooting a person and then leaving the scene in November 2015. And Nayeri is accused of kidnapping the owner of a marijuana business and another person in October 2012 and torturing the owner with fire, a knife and bleach.
All three pleaded not guilty to the charges. Authorities said Tuesday that Tieu, Nayeri and Duong would also be charged with one felony count of escape.
An award for information leading to the men’s capture was also raised to $200,000.
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