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Insane driver who killed four in Isla Vista massacre could be set free following hearing

David Attias in 2001
David Attias in 2001
SB Sheriff's Office via The Daily Nexus

It happened more than a decade ago, but people in Isla Vista -- the tiny college town where UC Santa Barbara’s student population lives -- still remember when David Attias, a mentally unstable student at the school, plowed his car into a crowd of pedestrians, killing four and critically injuring one.

Attias was convicted of second-degree murder and committed to a state mental institution -- but today he is due in court for a competency hearing that could lead to his freedom, the L.A. Times reports.

The four-day hearing, held in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, will determine whether Attias should remain in Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino where he has been institutionalized since 2002. The final decision is up to a judge, who could choose to place him under 24-hour supervision in a “conditional release program,” according to KTLA.

On Feb. 23, 2001, Attias, then 19, drove his Saab down the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde at high speed, striking five pedestrians (the streets of Isla Vista are often full of pedestrians and bicyclers, and drivers know to go slow or go around). Witnesses said he finally stopped the car and got out shouting, “I am the angel of death!”

Attias’ lawyers maintained he had always been mentally unstable and suffered a psychotic breakdown on the night of the incident. He was found to be legally insane following his conviction in 2002.

Attias is the son of director Daniel Attias, known for his work on “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.”

The judge’s ruling could come within a week after the hearing is over.