Charges Reduced for Man Accused of Stealing CHP Cruiser, Bus

SACRAMENTO -- A man accused of stealing a CHP cruiser and then carjacking a school bus appeared in court for the first time Tuesday.

Aaron Avitan will be able to get out of jail as long as he takes steps to guard his mental health, sees a doctor and stays on medication.

"With my limited conversation with him he’s very confused and scared," said attorney John Gonzales.

Gonzales says he hasn’t been able to visit his client in jail. Since Friday’s chaos, Avitan has been held in a health ward, with limited access where his condition can be constantly monitored.

"Well, he was originally booked on much more serious charges, which, if he were convicted of all those charges, would have been a life imprisonment," Gonzales said.

Avitan is accused of first stealing a CHP cruiser after a stop on Highway 50 then driving that cruiser to Sacramento State University, where he used the police vehicle to pull over a bus full of people passing through on their way to a retreat at Lake Tahoe.

"He came to a stop and he told us to get off, and we were like, 'Get off?'" said witness and bus passenger Marsha Fernando. "We wasn’t thinking about getting off because we knew he was going to take the bus. All our belongings were on the bus. My wallet with my money. Come on now."

Fernando says she was one of the passengers on the bus who helped end the wild sequence of events by physically getting Avitan under control.

She says she is "appalled" by the reduction in charges and bail agreed to Tuesday in court.

Fernando told FOX40 she felt like something was off with Avitan all along but that doesn’t mean she and the others on that bus weren’t victims.

"He wasn’t serious the whole time but you don’t know what to do because you don't know if he has a weapon or not," she said.