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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 6:04 pm | Fair 62º


Van Tassel Gets Probation in La Cumbre Bridge Standoff

No contest plea gives Highway 101 gunman five years' probation, community service and a $500 fine for last year's protest that brought Santa Barbara traffic to a standstill

Making his first court appearance since February, Edward Van Tassel, the gunman whose protest on the La Cumbre Road overpass snarled traffic for hours last fall, pleaded no contest Thursday to two felony charges of exhibiting a firearm to a police officer and using force or violence to resist law enforcement.

Van Tassel, 29, was arrested Nov. 3 after waving an unloaded pistol on the bridge in what he said was a protest against the Iraq war and a demonstration of support for now-President Obama. The four-hour standoff backed up traffic for miles on Highway 101 and nearby surface streets before Van Tassel was taken into custody. Since the incident, he has been undergoing psychiatric treatment at a Veterans Affairs facility in Los Angeles.

Prosecutor Darryl Perlin warns defendant Edward Van Tassel that a violation of his probation could result in nearly four years in prison.
Prosecutor Darryl Perlin warns defendant Edward Van Tassel that a violation of his probation could result in nearly four years in prison. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Van Tassel, an Army veteran, served in Iraq and was seen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for post-traumatic stress syndrome, authorities have said.

Santa Barbara County Senior Deputy District Attorney Darryl Perlin read through a waiver of constitutional rights, which Van Tassel acknowledged he understood. Van Tassel will be put on felony probation for five years, contribute 200 hours of community service and pay $500 to the fund established for the four Oakland police officers who were gunned down by a wanted parolee last month. Perlin told him that the maximum penalty for violating probation is three years and eight months in state prison.

Van Tassel will remain at the VA facility to which he’s been assigned until his sentencing case is heard, and can apply for early termination of probation after three years, based on a judge’s ruling. Perlin asked Van Tassel if he was going to remain at the VA until his sentencing date, prompting an interjection from Superior Court Judge Brian Hill.

“I’m not prepared to go along with this unless he’s going to remain at the VA facility,” Hill said. The probation department could recommend that Van Tassel discontinue treatment at the VA, based on its observations, but Van Tassel must stay at the hospital pending further order of the court.

“You are much more familiar with this case than I am,” Hill said, gesturing to Perlin and Robert Landheer, Van Tassel’s defense attorney, and he said he was relying on people intimately involved with Van Tassel’s condition and history to make those calls.

“Until I get more information about what his mental status is and how the treatment is proceeding at the VA hospital, I think he ought to remain at that facility,” Hill said. “In terms of public safety, I think it’s appropriate that he be ordered, as a condition of his continued release on bail, that he be treated at the VA and that he remain there.

“Even if the doctors are telling you you’re fully recovered and that you’re able to go out and be safe in the community,” Hill said to Van Tassel, adamant that “there was no question that he could be wandering around the community.”

Patria Van Tassel says her son
Patria Van Tassel says her son “did not mean to inconvenience or hurt so many people.” (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Hill ruled that Van Tassel will return to court June 4 to face sentencing.

Van Tassel appeared to be in good spirits after the ruling and said he was grateful to the family’s lawyer, a sentiment shared by his mother, Patria Van Tassel.

“We didn’t want any more things to happen, to the city or to my son,” she said.

Patria Van Tassel said she feels her son is doing much better since the case first began.

“He’s cognizant but he doesn’t remember certain things,” she said, adding that she would like to see him moved to a facility that doesn’t use as many drugs to treat PTSD.

As for her son’s actions on that Monday morning in November, “He knew it was a very bad thing to do, but he just wanted to let people know that the veterans are coming home,” she said. “He did not mean to inconvenience or hurt so many people.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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