2001 Isla Vista killings

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2001 Isla Vista killings
DateFebruary 23, 2001
LocationIsla Vista, California, United States
Coordinates34°24′37″N 119°51′14″W / 34.4104°N 119.8538°W / 34.4104; -119.8538Coordinates: 34°24′37″N 119°51′14″W / 34.4104°N 119.8538°W / 34.4104; -119.8538
Non-fatal injuries1
SuspectsDavid Attias
ChargesMurder, driving under the influence
ConvictionsFour counts of second-degree murder

On February 23, 2001, a vehicular homicide and assault occurred in the student community of Isla Vista, California, near the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus. Four people were killed and a fifth, who suffered critical injuries, died in October 2016.[1] The driver, David Attias, was ruled legally insane and sentenced to 60 years in a mental institution. In September 2012 the court approved Attias' conditional release into a monitored program.


On the evening of February 23, 2001, just after 11:00 p.m., UCSB student David Attias, the 18-year-old son of television director Dan Attias, drove his father's 1991 Saab 9000 down the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde Road at a speed of 50 to 65 miles per hour. Four pedestrians were killed and one was critically injured. According to a police statement, "All five victims were thrown forward, some being knocked out of their shoes and socks."[2]

According to witnesses, Attias got out and yelled "I am the Angel of Death!". He continued to taunt a growing crowd, until he was subdued by the first CHP officer to arrive on the scene.[3] In the initial aftermath, it was unclear if Attias was affected by taking drugs, or if the attack was intentional. Blood tests later showed that Attias was under the influence of marijuana and Lidocaine, but neither were deemed significant to the incident.[4][5]


Four people were killed in the assault: 20-year-old UCSB students Nicholas Bourdakis and Christopher Divis, 27-year-old San Francisco resident Elie Israel, and 20-year-old Santa Barbara City College student Ruth Levy. Albert Arthur Levy, 27, brother to Ruth, was critically injured but survived. His injuries consisted of crushed legs and a severely battered head, and he died in 2016 after suffering seizures for years caused by the injury.[6][7]



Attias was charged with four counts of murder, four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and five counts of felony driving under the influence.[7] Residents of his hall told police and the campus paper that Attias had been known for his erratic behavior, including stalking another student.[8] Several students referred to him as "Crazy Dave" and "Tweaker."[3] The case received additional media attention because David Attias is the son of Dan Attias, a prominent Hollywood TV director. Attias pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his trial sparked significant interest.

On June 11, 2002, Attias was convicted in a jury trial of four counts of second-degree murder. He was acquitted of driving under the influence.[9] One week later, the same jury found that Attias was legally insane. This resulted in a sentence of up to 60 years at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino.[10]

The case sparked wider debate on how the insanity ruling should apply to the fate of those convicted of murder in California. It is possible that Attias will ultimately serve a greatly reduced sentence than what his prison term would have been had he not been found insane.


A memorial to the victims was installed in Little Acorn Park. The park borders the intersection where Attias struck and killed them.[4][5]


While at Patton, Attias was treated for substance abuse, bipolar disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.[11] In May 2012, Attias asked the courts to transfer him from Patton to an outpatient psychiatric facility, stating he has his bipolar disorder under control. The news of his request prompted expressions of concern about his potential risk of relapse or danger from survivors and family of his victims at court hearings on this proposed action.[12] Testimony was heard from mental health professionals. Attias was given a conditional release from Patton State and transferred to a supervised "unlocked outpatient treatment program" on September 4, 2012.[13]


  1. ^ Nick Welsh, "Fifth Attias Victim Dies," Santa Barbara Independent, October 20, 2016.
  2. ^ Sexton, Steve (February 26, 2001). "UCSB Student Kills Four in High Speed Crash". Daily Californian. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Finz, Stacy; Haddock, Vicki; Baker, David R.; Hatfield, Larry D. (February 26, 2001). "'I Am Angel of Death' / Cops suspect ramming was intentional". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Ward, Angelina (February 24, 2011). "Vigil Honors Victims of Isla Vista Tragedy". Daily Nexus. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  5. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  6. ^ Haier, Daniel (February 27, 2006). "Grief Lingers In the Wake of Fatal Collision". Daily Nexus. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Finz, Stacy (February 27, 2001). "Teenager Charged With Murder In Car Deaths / In Isla Vista, friends and family turned out for a vigil at the spot where the victims were killed". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  8. ^ Jones, Andrew (March 5, 2001). "Death of UCSB students should spark awareness on our own campus; Recognizing, reporting odd behavior could prevent tragedies". Daily Bruin. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  9. ^ Lagos, Marisa (June 6, 2002). "Jury Finds Attias Guilty of Murder". Daily Nexus. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  10. ^ "Driver Who Killed 4 Ruled Insane". Associated Press. February 11, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  11. ^ Cooper, Lara (June 1, 2012). "Hearings Continue on Possible Release of David Attias, Driver Who Killed 4 in Isla Vista". Noozhawk. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  12. ^ Chen, Ted; Costes, Neil (May 29, 2012). "David Attias Seeks Transfer From Mental Hospital". NBC South California. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  13. ^ Welsh, Nick (September 4, 2012). "Conditional Release for David Attias". The Independent. Retrieved October 6, 2015.