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The Isla Vista community was shattered this weekend when four people were killed and another critically injured Friday night after UCSB freshman David Attias allegedly struck them with his car while driving at approximately 50 to 60 mph on the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde Road.
Christopher Divis and Nicholas Bourdakis, both 20-year-old UCSB students, Ruth Levy, a 20-year-old Santa Barbara City College student and Elie Israel, a 27-year-old San Francisco resident, were all pronounced dead on the scene.
Albert Levy, Ruth’s 27-year-old brother, was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and is listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit, but is expected to survive. Albert Levy and his friend Israel were in I.V. visiting Ruth Levy for the weekend.
Attias was driving eastbound on Sabado Tarde when he allegedly ran a stop sign at the Camino Pescadero and Sabado Tarde intersection and struck nine parked cars and the five pedestrians at 11:08 p.m., California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Mike Muell said. Attias is currently being held at the Santa Barbara County Jail on one count of vehicular homicide without the possibility of bail, and is scheduled for arraignment on Tuesday.
“He ran that stop sign before he hit the cars. He hit nine cars in a row. They were all parked in front of each other on the [south] side of the road. He hit about probably one or two cars first and then he started hitting the pedestrians, and he was hitting them as he continued to sideswipe the seven other cars,” Muell said. “This is the most gruesome accident we’ve ever seen.”
Witnesses at the scene immediately called 911 and began to check the pulses of the victims before ambulances arrived. After concluding Albert Levy was the only victim still breathing, an anonymous witness administered CPR to him. Nicholas Gadouas, an I.V. resident and SBCC student, said when Attias’ vehicle, a 1991 black Saab, came to a stop, the suspect jumped out of the car and began challenging witnesses around him to fight.
“By [the time the ambulances arrived] the guy was ranting and raving and pulling at his clothes. He was saying stuff like, ‘This is the dark side, I’m the dark angel, I’m the angel of death,’ and ‘This is a government ploy to scare you, don’t believe the lies.’ He went to pick up the girl he hit; he kind of picked up her arm and let go of it,” Gadouas said.
“By the time they were here, the police got him within five seconds. Other people were fighting with him. A hundred or so people were psychologically damaged within that one moment,” Gadouas said. “People were kicking the shit out of him; if police hadn’t arrived when they did, someone would have killed him. There was a circle around him, and every time he tried to get out, people would push him back and he would jump right up, and he’s a pretty small guy.”
Muell said Attias was uncooperative after his arrest and showed signs of being under the influence of a controlled substance, including dilated pupils and an abnormally high heart rate. Results from blood tests obtained Friday night will not be available until later this week.
“When he realized law enforcement was involved, he became very uncooperative, wouldn’t do what was asked of him, refused to answer any questions, refused the tests that we tried to give him. We even had to forcibly take a blood sample from him because he wouldn’t,” Muell said. “We do believe that he probably was on something, but we don’t have anything to make us believe it was alcohol that he was on. Our drug recognition experts do believe he was under the influence of some sort of narcotic or drug. That’s why the blood samples were obtained, so we can test that and see exactly what it was.”
Attias was aggressive towards witnesses and law enforcement officers and did not appear at all concerned about the welfare of the victims, said senior business economics major Adam Smith, a resident on the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde.
“I don’t know what they decided he was on, but he wasn’t slurring, or he wasn’t in that drunken state. He seemed very mellow and it seemed like he knew what had gone on,” he said. “Actually, one of the things that’s gonna stick in my head was when the policeman was putting him in the back of the cruiser there was a line of us on the sidewalk and on the balcony, and he just turned to the whole group and said ‘Peace out,’ and then he got in the car. That was one of the things I’ll never forget, because he was standing 15 feet from us and he turned to us with no regard for what he had just done.”
Hundreds of I.V. residents arrived at the scene in the hours following the accident. Joe Cordoni, a sophomore dramatic art and communication major, said he was baffled such a horrific and violent incident occurred in I.V.
“I can’t even believe it. This is a random act of violence – the ultimate evil, because he had no idea of the background of the victims. This is just spontaneous violence. I’m devastated right now,” Cordoni said. “Right now as we stand here, fuck, I’m totally dumbfounded. It’s disgusting. I’ve seen people shot in front of my face; I’ve passed by dead bodies on the freeway. But this stuff hits home harder than anything right now – these parents don’t know their babies are ceased.”
Attias had a previous history with drug abuse and behavioral problems, according to Julia Himberg, a sophomore film studies major. Himberg said Attias was in a drug and behavioral rehabilitation program in Vermont approximately three years ago with her sister’s roommate.
“[My sister's roommate] was saying to me that obviously she was surprised, but she wasn’t as surprised as we were, considering she was in a rehab program with him. She said that not only was it a rehab program for drug and alcohol abuse, but also for behavioral problems and issues in modification, and obviously this was related – he was more on a mission, that was what she was suggesting to me,” Himberg said. “I certainly know what was running through my mind in part was: ‘Was this just a freshman who had been a good kid all along, and all of a sudden he just got drunk one night and did something stupid, or was this just a pattern with him?’ And it sounds more like he had a pattern.”
UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang arrived with his wife at approximately 12:30 a.m. and began to set up counseling for those affected by the accident.
“My wife and I got out of bed and drove here right away. Student Heath Center Director Cynthia Bowers is also on her way to bring counselors,” he said. “We are trying to be of some help for this terrible, terrible tragedy. I’m so shocked and so saddened by this tragedy.”
In a statement Sunday, Yang said counselors would be available this week at the Career and Counseling Center, and today the flag at Cheadle Hall will fly at half-staff in memory of the victims.
Flowers and candles began flooding the scene of the accident Saturday morning, and friends of Bourdakis and Divis gathered Sunday for an impromptu memorial. St. Mark’s Church will hold a candlelight vigil tonight at 8 on Sabado Tarde.
In a written statement to the Daily Nexus, friends said Bourdakis, a geography major, had a passion for flying airplanes and worked at an airfield in San Francisco while at home last summer. “Those who knew him speak very highly of this young man who brightened everyone with his humor and presence.”
Divis, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Vista, CA, was remembered by his high school friend Cody Webster as a hardworking student who had a passion for animation and photography.
“I’ve known Chris for four years. My first reaction to all of this is it wasn’t fair. Chris out of all of us, aside from being smart and funny, applied himself, you knew he was going somewhere in life. He was a very, very outgoing person and had one heck of a sense of humor,” Webster said. “The last time I saw him was over Christmas Break, but we would talk on the phone at least once a week. One of the hardest parts is that I had no clue that would be the last time I ever saw him, there’s so much more I wish I could have told him, like what a great person he was. I feel anger towards the guy who was driving. His life is over and I feel great about that.”
Friends and family of the Levys and Israel could not be reached for comment.