SANTA ANA (CNS) - A "24-7'' search was underway today for three dangerous prisoners who escaped the Orange County jail lockup in Santa Ana.
Inmate Hossein Nayeri of Newport Beach, 37, faced charges of kidnapping and torture; Jonathan Tieu of Fountain Valley, 20, faced a murder charge; and Bac Duong of Santa Ana, 43, faced an attempted murder charge.
The inmates last were seen at a physical body count that took place 5 a.m. Friday at the Men's Central Jail complex but were not discovered missing until about 9 p.m., after the day's second and final body count, sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock said at an afternoon news conference.
They may have used an altercation that happened at the jail as the body count approached at 8 p.m. Friday as cover while making their escape, which was "well thought out'' and the result of weeks or even months of planning, Hallock said.
The men escaped from a dormitory-style "tank'' housing about 60 inmates. The jail complex -- which dates to the late 1960s and lacks some in-house services that are features of more modern jails and prisons -- consists
of three facilities housing about 900 inmates, according to the lieutenant.
The entire complex is maximum security. There have been two prior escapes from the jail, both over 20 years ago, Hallock said.
The escapees cut through 1/2-inch steel bars and plumbing channels to make their way to an unsecured portion of the jail's roof before using a makeshift cloth rope to rappel to the ground. They fled on foot, Hallock said.
It's unclear if they had any help from the outside or if other inmates were involved in the escape.
The sheriff's department, Orange County District Attorney's and Probation offices, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI are involved in the search, which, Hallock called "a 24-7 operation until these individuals are
The FBI has offered a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the escapees' arrests, Hallock said.
Once the men were discovered to be missing, arresting and investigating agencies that handled the escapees' cases, as well as the D.A.'s office, were notified and steps were taken to protect those involved, Hallock said.
"As sheriff, my utmost concern and primary responsibility is the safety of each Orange County resident,'' according to a statement from Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. "I take this situation very seriously and the men and women of the Orange County Sheriff's Department will not rest until all three men are captured.''
The three men should be considered dangerous, based on the crimes of which they are accused, but authorities had no specific information indicating they were armed, Hallock said.
Anyone who sees them should call 911 immediately and anyone with information regarding their possible whereabouts was urged to call a special hotline at (714) 628-7085. Anonymous tips can be provided by calling Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.
There have been two prior escapes from the jail, both over 20 years ago, Hallock said.