A judge drastically slashed bail for the Vallejo man accused of stealing an idled California Highway Patrol cruiser on a busy freeway before commandeering a bus of college students on the Sacramento State University campus last week.
Aaron Avitan’s mental health took center stage at his first court appearance Tuesday as Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet ordered bail reduced to $45,000 from its original $7.8 million at his arraignment on charges of felony auto theft and false imprisonment in the bizarre Friday incident.
Sweet also ordered Avitan, as a condition of the bail reduction, to continue to take his prescribed medication and contact his doctor to determine that he is taking the proper drugs.
Avitan was told to return to court Sept. 6, with a doctor’s note confirming that he is taking his prescribed doses.
Avitan appeared before Sweet in a jail-issued orange uniform and in stocking feet, meeting with his attorney, Jonathan Gonzales. Members of Avitan’s family sat in the gallery but did not speak with reporters.
Gonzales said it is a “scared and confused” Avitan who now is housed on the Sacramento County Main Jail’s medical floor. Gonzales declined to discuss Avitan’s mental state or what prompted him to climb into a patrol officer’s cruiser and storm a campus shuttle.
Avitan had been arrested on suspicion of felony kidnapping — one allegation each for the nine San Joaquin Delta College students and the driver of the Ford Econoline bus he boarded before he was subdued and restrained by the shuttle’s passengers.
Sacramento County prosecutors instead filed the lesser felony of false imprisonment.
The incident began with a traffic collision about 12:25 p.m. Friday at Highway 50 and Bradshaw Road, CHP officials said. As the officer talked with one of the people involved in the wreck, Avitan sat behind the wheel and drove away. Avitan drove onto the campus and pulled over a bus carrying Delta College students participating in a tour. He boarded the bus, took the wheel and began driving the shuttle, officials said.
But his drive was short-lived. Two of the students grabbed the man in a choke hold and subdued him until university police arrived to arrest Avitan.