Life just got a whole lot easier for a San Francisco homeless grandfather who was handed a $100,000 (£70,000) reward for tipping off police when he spotted two fugitives from a Southern California jailbreak. Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer flew north to the Bay Area to personally hand-deliver the check and have lunch with tipster and self-described news junkie Matthew Hay-Chapman, 55.
"So many people would have walked away. So many people would not have gotten involved. But his father was in the military and he mentioned to me he felt a duty to report what he saw," Spitzer said of Hay-Chapman in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "What he did was amazing."
Hay-Chapman spotted two escaped inmates Hossein Nayeri, 37, and Jonathan Tieu, 20, in late January near Golden Gate Park, sitting in a white van authorities said they stole after busting out of the high-security Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana and headed north to San Francisco.
Hay-Chapman said he had read about the men in a local newspaper and recognised them from their mugshots. When Nayeri went into a nearby McDonald's, Hay-Chapman kept an eye on Nayeri and flagged down a passing patrol car. Nayeri fled, but Hay-Chapman told officers which direction he ran, and both men were busted.
Nayeri was in jail on charges of kidnapping and torture, and Tieu on murder charges when they escaped with a third man, Bac Duong, by crawling through tunnels and using bedsheets to rapel from the jail roof, authorities said.
Duong left the men during an argument about whether or not to kill a cab driver whose taxi they had hijacked just after the jailbreak, and surrendered days later in southern California, said law enforcement authorities
Orange County offered a $150,000 (£104,000) reward for all three men. The county board of supervisors voted to give $100,000 (£70,000) to Hay-Chapman, $15,000 (£10,000) each to two Target store employees who provided police with receipts for cell phones the fugitives had purchased, and $20,000 (£14,000) to the man whose van was taken.
Hay-Chapman could collect even more money. The recipient of an additional $50,000 (£35,000) reward from the FBI and US Marshals Service is yet to be determined. Hay-Chapman, a former locksmith who said he lost his job due to a bad back, intends to share the money with an adult son and daughter and his grandchildren.
"I won't be just a broken-down, depressed grandpa on Social Security," he told the local ABC-TV station. "He seems to be a really, really good soul who had a streak of bad luck," Singer told the Times.