Suspected airport shuttle bus thief facing felony charges

SAN DIEGO — An Arizona man accused of commandeering an employee shuttle bus at San Diego International Airport and driving off with eight workers inside was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on seven felony charges.

Norberto Eaton, 47, also faces counts related to a jailhouse scuffle with sheriff’s deputies two days later.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederic Link ruled, at the conclusion of a brief preliminary hearing, that enough evidence was presented for Eaton to proceed to trial. A trial date will be scheduled at Eaton’s next court appearance on Oct. 19.

The defendant remains in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Eaton allegedly stole the employee shuttle bus from the front of Terminal 2 West on April 19 around 3:45 p.m. Harbor Police said the shuttle bus driver pulled up to the curb pick-up area and stepped off the bus to pass a piece of equipment to another driver.

Authorities allege Eaton — who was not an employee at the airport — jumped from a passenger seat into the driver’s seat and drove off with eight employees on board.

Eaton allegedly 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, according to police.

None of the employees on the stolen shuttle bus were injured.

Sheriff’s deputies testified at the preliminary hearing that a scuffle broke out with Eaton on April 21 when the defendant was housed in a jail psychiatric unit. It took multiple Taser hits and several deputies to bring him under control, they said.

Eaton is charged with kidnapping, auto theft and reckless driving for taking the shuttle, plus resisting officers and three counts of battery on an officer for the jail fracas.

If convicted, he faces more than 10 years behind bars.