Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A taxi driver taken hostage by the three inmates who recently escaped from the Orange County Jail described in remarks published Wednesday how his drunken captors argued about his fate, climaxing in a drag-out fight between two of them at a motel in San Jose.

Taxi driver Long Ma told the Orange County Register he was resigned to die at the hands of his kidnappers. Ma, who speaks only Vietnamese, couldn’t understand what the men were saying. But he figured it was about him. And it wasn’t good.

“In the beginning I was very scared, but by that time I had said, ‘If I die I’m going to be happy, not sad, because that’s no way to live,’” Ma, a 74- year-old independent taxi driver from Garden Grove, said through an interpreter.”If God calls you, you answer.”

The escapees held Ma captive for seven days starting the evening of Jan. 22, whisking him from one cheap motel to another. Ma said the fugitives hijacked him at gunpoint and used him to cash checks and sign motel registrations. They toyed over and over with killing him, at one point buying rope and marching him to the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf, according to the Register.

When one of the escapees stuck a gun against Ma’s belly after the hijacking, “I was in a panic,” he said. “I said, ‘Help me, I’ll do whatever you say,”‘ Ma recalled.

He said his captors spent each night knocking back bottles of Jack Daniel’s and 12-packs of beer. They began each bleary morning the same way: watching the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s news conferences on television and proudly pointing to their pictures.

They weren’t afraid, Ma said. They were gloating.

After the group settled in midweek at the Alameda Motel in San Jose, the nightly arguments between Bac Duong and Hossein Nayeri grew more heated and finally erupted into a fistfight. Ma said he watched in fear as Nayeri wrestled Duong to the ground and then pummeled his face, appearing to break his nose.

It was after that fight that Duong started whispering to Ma about escaping together. The two got their chance when Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, the third escapee, left the motel on Thursday to get the windows tinted on a white van the trio had stolen.

The two returned to Southern California in Ma’s leased Honda, which he uses as a taxi. Duong surrendered and Ma was released.

—City News Service

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