Isla Vista Relieved to See the Mirror Bus Towed

The “mirror” bus was towed after driver Zachary Coughlin was arrested in Isla Vista on Monday. | Credit: Andrew Tesler
Zachary Coughlin, 43

Isla Vistans breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the “mirror bus” being towed away and the driver arrested on Monday evening. The black-and-red bus owned by Zachary Coughlin, 43, had dropped into the college town a few weeks ago, and the bus was at first a mere curiosity decorated with lights and a mirrored interior. But residents described on social media how the driver would park outside women’s homes and shout at them. When he began posting incel and other remarks about Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in I.V. in 2014, they became alarmed.

One young woman, who asked not to be identified, said UCSB police dispatch was rude and aggressive when she called on Friday, asking to make a report anonymously. She said the community had been intrigued by the bus at first, but then the driver posted women’s phone numbers. A second officer was nicer, she said, and told her they’d received other complaints but did not take down the posts she mentioned. “Now that something comes up that’s really scary, nothing is being done,” she said on Monday afternoon.


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People who made their concerns known made all the difference, said Ethan Bertrand, who is a member of Isla Vista’s elected government, the Community Services District. “When community members feel unsafe, it’s really important that they share it with neighbors and law enforcement. They can reach out to the CSD, too, but it’s important to contact law enforcement first,” he added. Bertrand said he began to hear complaints about the bus on Sunday afternoon.

The Sheriff’s Office has been working the case since May 14 when calls began to come in, said spokesperson Raquel Zick. Officers approached the bus on Monday afternoon to speak with the driver in a behavioral threat assessment. Other officers in the Special Investigators Bureau combed through social media posts and interviewed witnesses. Coughlin was arrested on charges of stalking and is held on $200,000 bail. The bus was towed to impound.

Correction: The charge of stalking was added to this story and the bail amount corrected to $200,000 from $150,000.


At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor.  Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you  in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.

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