On Feb. 23, 2001, David Attias drove his Saab into a crowd of pedestrians on Sabado Tarde Road in Isla Vista.
Josh Molina was a young reporter who got the call from the night editor that there was a major crash in Isla Vista. Tom Bolton got the call from the Santa Barbara County fire spokesman at the time that there was major incident in Isla Vista. Molina rushed out to the scene and was later joined by Scott Hadly.
The two reporters spent the next day reporting on the crash and trying to piece together the story of how and why Attias used his car as a weapon and killed four people, Nicholas Bourdakis, Chris Divis, Ellie Israel and Ruth Levy. A fifth victim, Bert Levy, was also hit and died several years later.
In this podcast, Hadly and Molina recall the night of the crash, their reporting efforts, how they navigated the difficult situation, and how they pieced together their report to tell a compelling narrative of the event.
“The car was mangled and it was mangled because of hitting people,” Hadly recalled. “It’s kind of hard to come to terms with.”
Attias was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sentenced to Patton State Hospital and then released into a conditional-release program in 2012. Now Attias is seeking a release from his program.
Hadly also recalls how he obtained and viewed footage from an Isla Vista public access film crew, which helped fuel the reporting. In the video, Attias can be seen swinging wildly before being taken down by a sheriff’s deputy.
And Hadly talks about his journalism career, the story of how he almost became a police officer for the Santa Barbara Police Department, and then eventually landed at 23andme in the Silicon Valley. Molina and Hadly worked together for seven years and developed a mutual respect for one another. They have won multiple investigative journalism awards.