Campus and community members will gather at Little Acorn Park today at 6 p.m. to honor the lives of four pedestrians who were tragically killed by a mentally unstable driver in Isla Vista ten years ago.Nick Bourdakis, Christopher Divis, Ruth Levy and Elie Israel were killed on the night of Feb. 23, 2001 when 19-year-old UCSB student David Attias drove his car down the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde Road at high speed, striking them all. Albert Levy — Ruth Levy’s older brother — was the sole survivor of the rampage.
Tony Bourdakis, the father of victim Nick Bourdakis, said the memorial is meant to bring comfort to anyone who has lost someone important.
“I want everyone to know that this is not just for our family,” Bourdakis said. “It is for the other families involved in this incident, and really anyone who has tragically lost a loved one who they want to remember.”
Reverend Father Jon-Stephen Hedges of Isla Vista’s St. Athanasius Orthodox Church — leader of tonight’s memorial — said the tragedy took a heavy toll on the community.
“This was a tragedy that hit all of us: the university, the students, the local law enforcement, everyone,” Hedges said. “I remember walking the streets of I.V. in the weeks that followed, and everyone seemed to have some sort of connection to the victims. It was clear they were exactly the kinds of people you would have wanted to be friends with.”
California Highway Patrol Officer Robert Stuva, who was on duty the night of the infamous ‘Isla Vista Massacre,’ said the incident was as a shock to everyone involved.
“When you get a late night call like that, when a driver performs that recklessly, you tend to assume that either drugs or alcohol was involved,” Stuva said. “You can never really be prepared for something like that. Even here, in Isla Vista, something of that nature will always catch you off guard.”
While he was not at the scene of the tragedy, Stuva said his fellow officers were deeply disturbed by the painful scene.“Sergeant Robertson was one of the officers who took the call that night, and I knew him well,” Stuva said. “I know that the violent nature of the crime made it especially difficult on all of them because you cannot just go home at night and talk about it. You have to keep it all inside you.”
After crashing and exiting his vehicle, Attias reportedly proceeded to shout obscenities and cryptic messages including, “I am the angel of death.”
Attias stood trial for four counts of murder, four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and five counts of felony-driving-under-the-influence, but was admitted to a psychiatric ward when the jury decided no controlled substances had played a significant role in his actions. The verdict stated that an unstable mental condition had caused his behavior.
Despite the tragic nature of the incident, Hedges said the community has responded positively and constructively to the outcome of the event.
“I know it is hard to see at first, but look at the change that this has brought on in the community,” Hedges said. “The Bourdakis family has taken up a ministry to help the university and the local homeless. It is such a beautiful thing when families come and work in the place where they experienced tragedy.”