SANTA ANA, California — A tip from an observant woman led San Francisco police to catch two escaped inmates who had been on the run for more than a week, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said Saturday.
San Francisco police were responding to a call around 8:50 a.m. Saturday when a woman said she saw a parked white van that looked like the one authorities said the fugitives had stolen, Hutchens said.
As officers approached the van, 37-year-old Hossein Nayeri started running and was caught after a short chase, according to the sheriff, who said the officers found 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu hiding in the van.
Authorities had been hunting for Tieu, Nayeri and a third inmate, 43-year-old Bac Duong, in Southern California since they pulled off a brazen jail escape Jan. 22.
The men were arrested near Golden Gate park, an area popular with both tourists and the homeless.
Vergel Dalusung said he saw three police cars surrounding a white van that was parked across the street from a McDonald’s, just outside a Whole Foods Market. He only saw police handcuff one man and put him in a patrol car, and it happened very quickly, he said.
“And that’s when I stopped looking cause I figured it was all taken care of,” Dalusung said.
On Friday, Duong walked into an auto repair shop and said he wanted to surrender. He told investigators he had last seen the other two inmates Thursday afternoon in San Jose, shifting the manhunt 400 miles to the north.
The three men had all been jailed and awaiting trial on charges in 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 four-story jail building.
They pushed aside barbed wire and rappelled down using a rope made of bed linen.
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. 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.
Ravaghi and Nayeri also exchanged “personal and close” handwritten letters, but sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock could not say if the two were romantically involved.
Duong, a native of Vietnam, has been held since last month on charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
It was the first escape in nearly three decades from the Central Men’s Jail, which was built in 1968 and holds 900 men.
Tieu is charged with murder and attempted murder in a 2011 gang shooting. Nayeri had been held without bail since September 2014 on charges of kidnapping, torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary.