Just before 9:30 p.m. on Friday night, a stretch of idyllic California coast became a scene of carnage as a gunman opened fire on college students and police, and crashed his BMW through the streets of Isla Vista, a college town adjacent to Santa Barbara. Four were killed, including the suspected killer, who authorities identified as an intensely disturbed 22-year-old, Elliot Rodger.
At Rodger's apartment, which Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown described as a “horrific crime scene,” police discovered three additional bodies. Each had been brutally stabbed to death.
The wreckage, Brown said, was “obviously the work of a madman.”
What do we know about the victims — and what do we know about Rodger? Could anything have been done to prevent the killing?
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Who was killed or injured?
The six people Rodger is suspected of killing were students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The three men found at his apartment were identified as Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, George Chen, 19, and Weihan Wang, 20. Hong and Chen were listed as tenants at Rodger’s apartment; it was unclear if Wang was a roommate as well.
Outside the Alpha Phi sorority house, Rodger gunned down Veronica Elizabeth Weiss, 19, and Katherine Breann Cooper, 22. Rodger then drove to the IV Deli Market, where he killed Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez, 20, and then careened through the streets of Isla Vista.
One witness, E.J. Debowski, watched from his porch as Rodger's black BMW barreled toward a skateboarder. He watched in horror as the car slammed into the boarder, identified as Elliott Gee, a UCSB junior. By Sunday night, several of the injured had been treated and released from area hospitals.
Rodger appeared to have been killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Thousands attended a vigil for the victims on Saturday night, and on Sunday, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang suspended Tuesday's classes and reminded students that counseling was available.
“This is a period of mourning for all of us,” Yang said.
What do we know about Rodger?
Rodger was the troubled but privileged son of Peter Rodger, a film director and photographer who worked on “The Hunger Games.” His stepmother was Soumaya Akaaboune, an actress who appeared in "Green Zone" in 2010 with Matt Damon, and who stars in the French version of the "Real Housewives" television series.
Rodger grew up in London and Los Angeles, and he eventually moved to Santa Barbara. According to a 141-page manifesto/autobiography believed to be his, he became a city college drop-out several times over, and along the way turned from an insecure boy into an isolated man who directed his vengeance at women.
MICHAEL NELSON / EPA
An image of Elliot Rodger and models of the weapons he used in a shooting rampage are presented at Santa Barbara County Sheriff headquarters in Goleta, Calif., on May 25, 2014.
"I'm 22 years old, and I'm still a virgin. I've never even kissed a girl," Rodger says in a YouTube video posted last week. "I've been through college for 2½ years — more than that actually — and I'm still a virgin. It has been very torturous," he says. "College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I've had to rot in loneliness."
"You girls have never been attracted to me,” he says, adding, “I will punish you all for it."
Could the killings have been prevented?
The father of one of the victims, Christopher Michael-Martinez, delivered a tear-choked plea to reporters about how his son had been killed by the "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA (National Rifle Association)."
Each of the three 9-millimeter semiautomatic handguns found in Rodger's car were legally purchased from federally licensed gun dealers.
In April, police visited Rodger after concerned relatives contacted his therapist. But Brown, the sheriff, told NBC-owned television station KNBC 4 that “he convinced them that it was all a misunderstanding.” Rodger admitted that he was having problems, but he planned on leaving school, Brown told the station. “He was able to convince them that he was not a threat to himself or to anyone else.”
Because Rodger had no record of being a danger to himself or to others, there was nothing the police could do, mental health expert Ann Lippincott told NBC's Mike Taibbi. “They absolutely did what they were supposed to do,” she said.
After Rodger’s parents saw his recent YouTube videos, they dialed the police and raced from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara as quickly as they could.
They were too late.
First published May 25 2014, 9:02 PM