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Tuesday February 27, 2001

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'I Am Angel of Death'

By The San Francisco Chronicle

Cops suspect ramming was intentional

Santa Barbara - A University of California freshman, who witnesses said shouted "I am the Angel of Death" after killing four pedestrians, may have intentionally rammed his car into a crowd, according to authorities.

A law enforcement source also said David Edward Attias, 18, of Santa Monica, may have been high on drugs when he sped his black Saab into the crowd near UC Santa Barbara Friday evening.

Three of those killed were from the Bay Area; another San Francisco resident remained in critical condition at a Santa Barbara hospital.

Attias, son of prominent Southern California television producer Daniel Attias and book editor Diana Attias, was being held in the Santa Barbara County Jail. He was booked on one count of murder in order to hold him without bail, but authorities said he could face murder charges for all four deaths. He was also booked on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and vehicular homicide.

He was to be arraigned tomorrow.

"We are investigating the potential that it was an intentional act," Sheriff's Lt. Mike Burridge said today. He added that at the death scene, Attias had displayed signs of "intoxication of some sort" and fought off witnesses who tried to hold him.

A preliminary test indicated the possible presence of methamphetamine and marijuana in his system, according to a law enforcement source who asked not to be identified. Final toxicology results will not be available for a week to 10 days.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Muell said authorities don't believe Attias was drunk, but believe narcotics were involved. A search of his dorm room Saturday morning did not find any illegal or prescription drugs, he said.

Muell also said investigators were trying to pin down rumors that Attias had run up to the bodies and said, "This is the way you're supposed to die."

The victims included UC Santa Barbara sophomore Nicholas Shaw Bourdakis, 20,

of Alamo; Santa Barbara City College student Ruth Dasha Golda Levy, 20, of San Francisco; and her visiting brother's roommate, Elie Israel, 27, of San Francisco.

Levy's brother, Albert Arthur Levy, 27, remained in intensive care at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with crushed legs and head injuries after several surgeries.

The fourth fatality was Christopher Edward Diviscq, 20, of San Diego County.

On campus today, students wore yellow armbands in memory of the victims. An interdenominational memorial service was to be held at the death scene at 8 o'clock tonight and UCSB was planning a formal memorial for Thursday, said university spokesman Paul Desruisseaux.

Witnesses told police that Attias, described by UCSB classmates as erratic and excitable, gunned the Saab to freeway speeds as it careered through Isla Vista, a densely populated community of mostly young adults near the UC campus.

He sideswiped nine parked cars and struck the five victims on Sabado Tarde Road, a byway that residents compare, in its crowded bustle, to New Orleans' French Quarter.

"It was horrific. There were bodies laying in the street," said Sevan Matossian, a 25-year-old Berkeley native who arrived moments after the crash to film the scene.

Attias was "swinging at people and yelling and bouncing around like he was a boxer," Matossian, a UCSB graduate and cable television producer, said. "It looked like he was on something."

Attias, a slight young man with brown hair, was known in his dormitory as a bit odd -- some referred to him, with rolled eyes, as "Crazy Dave" and "Tweaker."

Burridge said several witnesses had heard the revving of the car's engine or heard Attias making satanic references, calling himself the "Angel of Death. "

It wouldn't be the first time Attias acted strangely, according to students at Francisco Torres dorm, which is a private facility housing students at both the university and city college. On several occasions, students from the dorm said, Attias had banged on the doors of female residents in the middle of the night.

One of them, Michera Colella, an 18-year-old sophomore, described a strange scene with him a month or so ago outside a first-floor dorm elevator.

Colella said Attias was extremely agitated and repeatedly said, "My dad's a f------ a------" as he held a letter he told her was from his father. Attias insisted on reading the letter to her, she said.

It said, according to Colella, that the senior Attias was no longer comfortable with his son having the Saab, that he was afraid for his son's safety and was worried that he was not taking his medication.

The letter added, according to Colella, that the only way the father would let Attias keep the car was if he promised to see a psychiatrist instead of a therapist.

Colella and her roommate, freshman Samantha Street, also said that Attias recently had developed a crush on Street and kept making unencouraged visits to their dorm room.

"He seemed to always be bouncing off the walls," Street said. "When he was excited, he would flail his arms and his whole body would shake. . . You could really tell he wasn't really with it."