Driver sentenced for hijacking airport shuttle bus with passengers inside

Posted at 4:36 PM, Jun 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-05 19:36:00-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An Arizona man who commandeered an employee shuttle bus at San Diego International Airport and drove off with eight workers inside was sentenced today to three years in jail, followed by nearly four years of supervised probation.


Norberto Eaton, 48, pleaded guilty in April to false imprisonment and stealing the shuttle. He also pleaded guilty to resisting officers during a scuffle in the jail psychiatric unit two days after his arrest.


Eaton stole the employee shuttle bus from in front of Terminal 2 West on April 19, 2016, around 3:45 p.m.


VIDEO:  Airport shuttle stolen


Harbor Police said the shuttle bus driver had pulled up to the curb pick-up area and stepped off the bus to pass a piece of equipment to another driver when Eaton -- who was not an airport employee -- jumped from a passenger seat into the driver's seat and drove off with the eight employees on board.


The defendant turned onto North Harbor Drive at a high rate of speed and ignored traffic signals. When he was forced to stop in heavy traffic near Hawthorn Street, two airport employees approached him, and he jumped off the bus, according to police.


A San Diego parking enforcement officer and one of the passengers from the shuttle were able to detain the suspect. No one was hurt.


Deputy Public Defender Patrick McCoy said Eaton was at County Mental Health two days before the incident for treatment of mental health issues. He was having a "panic attack" when he stole the shuttle, his attorney said.