It seems California’s maximum security prisons are anything but secure.
In true Shawshank-style escape, three inmates of Santa Ana prison planned a spectacular escape from their cells (even though they were recaptured eight days later) — and recorded the entire audacious act on a contraband cell phone.
The video from January 2016 was provided by an inmate’s attorney, Salvatore Ciulla, and contains voiceovers from one of the fugitives, Adam Hossein Nayeri, who railed against the criminal justice system.
The footage started with a view of a maximum security dorm, known as Module F, where the three escapees, Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Duong, were housed. Inmates in the dorm realized Nayeri was recording but did not react except for Duong, who flashed a grin at the camera.
“You know, a lot of people like to credit us with some Houdini escape act all in eight minutes flat. It's an interesting myth,” Nayeri said in voice over. “In reality we did leave that mod after count. Not the one they're claiming though. I left that module at least eight hours earlier the night before.”
The recording showed Nayeri lifting a sawed off bunk bed leg and exposing a metal grate on the wall, which had been cut previously. The grate was put aside and as Nayeri entered into the vent, he gave a thumbs-up sign.
The three men then made their way through the plumbing shafts within the walls with the aid of their bed sheets. At one point, Nayeri posed for a picture with a thumbs-up sign. Tieu squinted as the light of the cell phone fell on his face. Noise of wind turbines could be heard in the background. The three men also cut through layers of metal bars to escape the prison. Their last vision of the Orange County jail was from its rooftop.
The video did not show how the three fugitives got to the ground. Nayeri later explained they had industrial rope, a toolbox, duffel bag and new clothes.
The next segment of the clip showed the men posing at the corner of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. They were then seen in a van equipped with food, Jack Daniels and even a marijuana pipe.
“This is our casa for the moment. This is our crib. Water, all the basics,” Nayeri said. “Friday night in San Francisco, a special Friday night in San Francisco.”
“We scared a lot of people and caused a lot of anxiety and fear and at the end of the day I can't say I feel good about that. I can't,'' he added in the last two minutes of the video.
In another section, Nayeri referred to the taxi driver they had “kidnapped” to drive them north, whose name was Long Ma.
"This man is truly a hero,'' Nayeri said. "He just radiated this calm fatherly presence.”
Photos show Ma on a beach posing with Tieu for the camera.
The trio’s escape sparked a statewide manhunt for eight days before two of them were finally captured. The third inmate turned himself to the police later.
Lt. Lane Lagaret, an Orange County Sheriff's Department representative, said the video is evidence in the ongoing investigation and is consistent with the information the department has already given to the media.
"We will not provide additional comment on a video narrative that seeks to or makes light of criminal actions," he said.
Before the prison break, Nayeri had been facing charges including burglary, kidnapping, aggravates mayhem and torture.
Tieu’s charges included murder, attempted murder, street terrorism and shooting at an occupied vehicle.
Duong charges were assault with a firearm, burglary, shooting at a house and attempted murder, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Banner/Thumbnail: Orange County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters