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Elliot Rodger slipped through police check a month before killing spree

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 25/05/2014 Michael Idato, Fairfax Media

  • Father of Veronika Weiss, shooting victim, speaks
  • Killing spree to spark new gun control debate in America
  • Three bodies taken from Elliot Rodger's apartment

Los Angeles: A month before 22-year-old California student Elliot Rodger's violent knife and gun rampage through the coastal university town of Isla Vista which left seven dead and more than a dozen injured, he opened his front door and was confronted by police.

A team of seven officers had been sent in response to a call from his family to a mental health agency, concerned about remarks he had made in a series of video diary postings on social media.

"I had the striking and devastating fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do, and reported me for it," Rodger wrote in a detailed document he left in his apartment prior to his killing spree.

In the document he wrote of his fear the police would search his apartment the day they came knocking. If they had, he wrote, they would have "found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them.

"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."

The incident highlights how narrowly Rodger fell through the net and how closely the police came to possibly avoiding a killing spree which left seven dead, including Rodger himself, and a small community deeply wounded.

Rodger, the son of Hollywood director Peter Rodger and stepson of Rodger's wife, Moroccan-born French actress Soumaya Akaaboune, had filmed a series of video diary entries which he posted on social media, referring to his frustration with women who "looked down" on him, and men "living a better life" than him.

"You forced me to suffer all my life, now I will make you all suffer. I waited a long time for this," he said. "If I had it in my power I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood."

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed that his department had contacted Rodger on three occasions, including the welfare check that Rodger detailed in his "manifesto".

On each occasion, Sheriff Brown said, Rodger presented as polite and courteous. "At the time the deputies interacted with him, he was able to convince them that he was OK," Sheriff Brown said.

Rodger, meanwhile, detailed the effort he went to convincing the officers that there was no cause for alarm.

"The police interrogated me outside for a few minutes, asking me if I had suicidal thoughts. I tactfully told them that it was all a misunderstanding, and they finally left," he wrote. "For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over. When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me."

In the "manifesto" Rodger said he also intended to kill his brother - "denying him of the chance to grow up to surpass me" - and stepmother. Rodger intended to plan the killings while his father was away, "so, thankfully, I won't have to deal with him."

Ultimately, his rage claimed seven lives including his own: Rodger stabbed three men to death in his apartment, and shot two women and a fourth man as he drove through Isla Vista. He took his own life during an exchange of gunfire with police.

With no criminal record, and no record of being institutionalised - details which might have prevented him from legally acquiring weapons - Rodger was able to legally purchase the three semi-automatic handguns used in the killings: two Sig Sauers and one Glock.

When police searched his vehicle, they unearthed a cache of more than 400 unspent rounds.

Richard Martinez, the father of 20-year-old Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20, who was shot and killed during Rodger's spree, blamed "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA [National Rifle Association; a powerful force in the pro-gun lobby]" for his son's death.

"They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’ right to live? When will this insanity stop?" Mr Martinez asked.

A lawyer for the Rodger family said they would co-operate with police, public agencies and "any other person who feels that they need to help prevent these situations from ever occurring again.

"My client's mission in life will be to try to prevent any such tragedies from ever happening again," lawyer Alan Shifman said. "This country, this world, needs to address mental illness and the ramifications from not recognising these illnesses."

There is little doubt that the incident will provoke debate over America's gun control laws, however the early debate has been muted by a public holiday weekend in the US and, perhaps, the fact that Rodger used a mixture of knives and guns in the killing spree.

National and international outrage at past mass gun-related killings, which claimed more lives - such San Ysidro in 1984, in which 21 people were killed, Killeen, Texas in 1991 (23 dead), Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007 (32 dead) and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 (27 dead) - have not yet managed to win meaningful reform.

People look at a makeshift shrine outside a deli that was one of nine crime scenes after a series of drive-by shootings that left seven people dead in the Isla Vista neighbourhood of Santa Barbara, California.

People look at a makeshift shrine outside a deli that was one of nine crime scenes after a series of drive-by shootings that left seven people dead in the Isla Vista neighbourhood of Santa Barbara, California.
© Reuters

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