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Transit Bus Hijacked; Driver Leads Officers on 35-Mile Freeway Chase

September 13, 1993|LILY DIZON and LESLIE BERKMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

COSTA MESA — A transient hijacked an Orange County transit bus Sunday and led authorities on a 35-mile chase before he was arrested after ordering a beer at the Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano, authorities said.

No one was injured in the pursuit. The man, Eugene Laporte, 34, forced the only other passenger and the driver off the bus before careening down three freeways with police and California Highway Patrol cars and a helicopter tracking him, officials said.

He parked the bus, "ran into the bar and sat on a bar stool and had just ordered a beer," said Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Gary McErlain.

Police said the homeless man boarded the bus in front of Newport Harbor High School about 10 a.m. Several blocks later, Laporte allegedly threatened the driver, police said.

The driver and the passenger, who were not identified, fled the bus. They called for help as Laporte drove away, authorities said. The suspect sideswiped a building with the bus but kept driving, they said, with two Costa Mesa police cars behind him.

The suspect made his way onto the southbound San Diego Freeway, officials said, where two CHP cruisers joined the pursuit.

The suspect drove off Interstate 5 at Ortega Highway, pulled the bus into a parking lot and ran into the Swallows Inn, where he ordered a beer and set his elbows on the bar to wait for his drink, witnesses said.

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