One year later, the flowers at the makeshift memorial are gone and a fresh layer of asphalt blankets Sabado Tarde Road.
At the memorial last year, thousands gathered in Storke Plaza to mourn the community’s collective loss. Students asked each other to remember the victims, respect the community, and refrain from the dangers of excess. One year later, many Isla Vista residents and community leaders say the tragedy has not been forgotten, but the pledges made have been neglected.
Violent crime in Isla Vista has increased since last February, and recently there has been a string of sexual assaults and violent fights. I.V. Foot Patrol Senior Deputy Alex Tipolt said the fights in I.V. are evidence the community did not turn its mourning into a respectful attitude.
“It goes away … it didn’t change a thing,” he said. “I.V. didn’t change. We’re still having major fights … lately it’s been worse.”
After the tragedy, the greater community of Santa Barbara County, which has often voiced disapproval with Isla Vista’s reputation and politics, had another opportunity to point the finger at the primarily college-aged population. When eight males were arrested in June for the assault of a 19-year-old city college student, the Santa Barbara News-Press cited the February tragedy and the unrelated assault as symptomatic of a larger problem. Both cases also put I.V. in the national spotlight.
“Everything we’ve worked so hard for was gone,” said former IVFP Lt. Ugo “Butch” Arnoldi. “It should have never have happened. It was another black eye for I.V.”
Arnoldi said the tragedy was “just as bad as the bank burning” for the community’s reputation, alluding to the burning of the Bank of America 31 years earlier.
“I mean, the tragedy could have occurred on lower State Street,” said Mark Chaconas, the assistant to 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall. “There was nothing anyone could have done to prevent this.”
Sabado Tarde Road was repaved and plans to rebuild sidewalks were pursued by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors as part of its plans to improve safety in I.V. Chaconas said no changes were made as a direct reaction to the tragedy.
“Things we did were part of a natural course to ensure safety. It’s not in reaction to the tragedy,” he said. “The plans to repave [Sabado Tarde] were already in effect and it happened to be around the same time as the tragedy. We had some in-house discussions about whether or not it was appropriate.”
Junior Randy Wright lived in Francisco Torres next door to Patrick Hsu, a UCSB student who was killed by a packaged bomb a week before the Sabado Tarde deaths. Wright said the death of his friend and the tragedy of Feb. 23 changed his perception of the I.V. community. David Attias, who has been charged with counts of murder and manslaughter in the case, also lived in the off-campus residence hall with Wright.
“If I.V. is going to have a sense of community, we have to look out for each other. I mean, how many people out there have problems like Dave did … we are all so vulnerable in I.V.” he said. “We saw [Attias] at the cafeteria, we knew he was fucked up. People are so selfish, we didn’t say anything, we just made fun of him – ‘Crazy Dave.’ I mean how many people did David kill – my God.”
The families of the victims, however, said they felt – and continue to feel – an amazing amount of support from the UCSB community.
“The bottom line is that if people don’t remember this, it’s all lost,” said Abby Pollak, the mother of victim Elie Israel. “It has to mean something – people have to remember that these things happen. You have to take responsibility for what’s around you … if you notice people acting weird, you have to pay attention.”
“What that city has done for the families is really nice – they opened their arms and hugged us,” Molly Wellmann, Elie’s fianc