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Families of Elliot Rodger's slain roommates sue sheriff's, apartment

Families of Elliot Rodger's victims sue Santa Barbara County, Sheriff's Department

The parents of three victims of Elliot Rodger's deadly rampage in Isla Vista last year have filed a federal lawsuit against Santa Barbara County, the county Sheriff’s Department and the apartment complex where the killer lived, alleging all ignored warning signs that Rodger was dangerous.

Rodger, 22, killed six UC Santa Barbara students and injured 14 others before taking his own life in the May 23, 2014, slayings.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, was filed by the parents of David Wang and James Hong, who were roommates of Rodger, and the parents of George Chen, who was a friend of Wang and Hong. The three UC Santa Barbara students from Northern California were ambushed separately as they entered the apartment, stabbed repeatedly to death and left in the room.

The suit alleges that the apartment building was negligent and that law enforcement authorities failed to properly investigate reports that Rodger was dangerous to himself and others.

The lawsuit contends that the apartment building owners and manager failed to complete reasonable background checks to ensure that Rodger was an appropriate and safe roommate before assigning him to Wang and Hong. The apartment building “failed to warn Hong and Wang that Rodger had had serious conflicts with his previous roommates and was not only racist but also potentially violent and dangerous,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit says that Hong and Wang trusted that Rodger had been properly vetted by the apartment complex.

The lawsuit also claims that the county and Sheriff’s Department ignored numerous “red flags” that Rodger was unstable and failed to properly investigate online evidence and reports that he was a danger to others.

About a month before the shooting, Rodger uploaded several videos online that expressed “his jealousy and rage toward women, minorities and people who are sexual active,” the lawsuit said.

A week later, deputies visited Rodger to do a “wellness check” after a call from a mental health worker who saw the online videos and believed that Rodger was unstable and might be a danger to himself or others.

Nobody from the Sheriff's Department reviewed the online posts, performed a background or weapons check before or after speaking with Rodger, the lawsuit claims.

A report released last month by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department found that deputies had no reason to put him on a mental health hold or conduct further investigation during their interactions with him.

"There was nothing during the contact with [Rodger] that gave the deputies reason to believe he was a danger to himself or others," the report stated. "Such risk factors are required in order to place someone on an involuntary mental health hold, or to legally search their residence."

In a statement, the sheriff’s office said it does not comment on pending litigation and that “anything we might say in response would be insufficient when measured against the grief suffered by the families of those killed so tragically on May 23, 2014.... We continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, and to extend our deepest sympathies to them.”

Attorneys representing the families could not be reached for comment.

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