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The Santa Barbara County Sheriff has cleared deputies who paid a visit — but did not detain — Elliot Rodger weeks before he carried out his killing spree in Isla Vista, California.
“Based on the information reviewed thus far, the Sheriff's Office has determined that the deputies who responded handled the call in a professional manner consistent with state law and department policy,” said Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the office, in a statement Saturday.
The deputies who conducted an April 30 welfare check on Rodger knew the despondent 22-year-old had posted a series of disturbing videos on YouTube, but never watched them.
The deputies described Rodger as “shy, timid and polite,” and accepted his explanation that the videos were just a way of “expressing himself” amid his troubles fitting in at the California college town.
Three weeks after that visit, on May 23, Rodger would stab three men to death in his apartment, gun down two women outside a sorority house and shoot dead another man in a deli before turning the gun on himself, police said.
In a 137-page manifesto Rodger sent to family and friends before the rampage, he described his panic at the deputies’ visit, fearing they had been tipped off to his plot.
“The police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them,” the passage read. “I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can’t imagine a hell darker than that. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but it was so close.”
Experts have told NBC News that even if deputies had seen the videos, it would have been difficult for them to differentiate those posts from the thousands of others posted by lonely, despondent people who don’t go on to carry out killing sprees.