Santa Barbara, California - A man who killed six people in a California college town emailed his deadly plans minutes before he went on a rampage, sending his parents racing to try to stop him and leaving a family friend wondering whether her son was an intended target, according to two interviews on Sunday.
Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old son of a Hollywood director, stabbed three people to death in his apartment before gunning down three more victims on Friday night in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). He then shot himself.
In all, Rodger killed two women and four men, and wounded 13 people, including eight who he shot as he sped through town in his black BMW, exchanging fire with police, authorities said.
Minutes before opening fire, the former community college student emailed a chilling manifesto to about 30 people including his mother, father and former teachers, said Cathleen Bloeser, 58, whose son was a childhood friend of the shooter and was included on the email chain.
In that document, Rodger said he planned to first kill his housemates, then lure others to his residence to continue the violence before slaughtering women in a sorority and continuing his spree in the streets of Isla Vista.
The manifesto, which details the fear Rodger felt that his guns might have been discovered when police visited him less than a month ago, was not the first indication that something was troubling him.
“We could see that he was turning,” Bloeser said, adding that Rodger talked to her 22-year-old son and another friend about sexual crimes he wanted to commit against women. “He’d changed emotionally and he'd become very despondent and he wanted to get back at people.”
Bloeser said Rodger asked for Bloeser's son, Philip, and their mutual childhood friend to stay with him this weekend at his apartment in Isla Vista.
“I have a feeling that they would have been right there as a part of it and shot as well,” she said.
Family friend Simon Astaire told Reuters that Rodger's mother, Chin, received a phone call on the night of the shooting from his therapist alerting her to the manifesto.
Chin Rodger called police and her ex-husband, Peter Rodger, and the two parents raced to Isla Vista, he said. Chin heard radio reports about the shootings as she drove, he said. Police in Santa Barbara told them their son was believed to be the gunman.
In a YouTube video posted shortly before he went on the rampage, Rodger bitterly complained of loneliness and rejection by women and outlined his plan to kill those he believed spurned him.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown has said that Rodger was seen by a variety of healthcare professionals and it was “very, very apparent he was severely mentally disturbed”.
Brown said his department had been in contact with Rodger three times, including for a welfare check at the request of his family in which deputies found him to be polite and courteous. He did not appear to meet criteria to be held involuntarily on mental health grounds, and deputies took no further action.
Elliot Rodger had seen therapists off and on since he was nine years old, Astaire said. He was reserved to the point of seeming to have trouble communicating with “an underlying sadness about him, a frustration”, he said.
“There was no suggestion that he had any interest, any liking for guns,” Astaire said.
But Bloeser said Rodger, who was bullied as a child and was known to have Asperger's syndrome, talked to her son about wanting to hold down and rape women. Within the last year, his mental health deteriorated and he was under psychiatric care but not taking his medication, she said.
The Los Angeles Times published portions of Rodger's roughly 140-page manifesto, in which he detailed his fear that police would foil his plot when they visited him last month. He opened his door to a knock to find about seven officers looking for him.
“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.
“If that was the case, 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. 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.”
He said the police left after he told them it was all a misunderstanding.
In the manifesto, Rodger said he did not think he was mentally prepared to kill his father, an assistant director on the 2012 film The Hunger Games.
A lawyer for the family, Alan Shifman, said they offered sympathy to those affected by the tragedy. Authorities searched the homes of both of Rodger's parents on Sunday but neither appeared to be home at the time.
A neighbour of Elliot Rodger who asked not to be identified told reporters on Sunday that Rodger had attended parties in the courtyard of the building but would sit alone, looking sullen.
One night, the neighbour said, Rodger came home bruised and bloodied from a fight with some men at a party after he had aggressively approached a woman there.
“After the beating he was shaking, profusely crying, his eyes were like water faucets,” the man said. “I've never seen anybody that mad, that upset in my life.”
When police found Rodger dead in his car, apparently killed by a self-inflicted gunshot, they also discovered three legally purchased semiautomatic guns - two Sig Sauers and a Glock - and about 400 rounds of unspent ammunition, Brown said. - Reuters