Deputies who fired at Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger return to duty

The four Santa Barbara County deputies who exchanged gunfire with Elliot Rodger during his rampage in Isla Vista have returned to duty, officials said.

The deputies were placed on administrative leave after the May 23 attack -- a standard practice for officer-involved shootings.


The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Monday evening that the deputies had been cleared to resume their full duties.

The department's investigation into the shootings, however, has not yet been forwarded to the district attorney's office for review, sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover told the Los Angeles Times.

The deputies were involved in two separate gun battles with Rodger, the 22-year-old man who police say killed six UC Santa Barbara students and wounded 13 other people before taking his own life. Investigators believe one of the rounds fired by the deputies struck Rodger in the hip, which officials said "likely distracted him from his killing spree and put him to flight."

Rodger then crashed his BMW and shot himself, investigators said. Authorities recovered 41 10-round magazines -- more than 400 unused bullets -- and three handguns from his car.

"If it were not for the quick and decisive actions of these brave deputies, many more innocent people might have died that night," Sheriff Bill Brown said in the statement.

Rodger's roughly eight-minute shooting attack began shortly before 9:30 p.m. on May 23, when authorities said he opened fire outside a sorority house, killing Veronika Weiss, 19, and Katherine Cooper, 22. He then drove to the nearby I.V. Deli Mart, where he killed Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20.

Rodger then drove down several Isla Vista streets, officials said, firing at and ramming his car into pedestrians. He was first confronted by a sheriff's deputy on Del Playa Drive, the fifth of 10 crime scenes Brown identified a day after the attack.

Rodger fired at the deputy, who was on foot, and the deputy returned fire, Brown said. Rodger then drove off, hitting a bicyclist with his vehicle and striking four pedestrians with gunfire before he came across a group of deputies at a park.

Rodger fired at the deputies and accelerated past them, Brown said. Three of the four deputies returned fire, hitting the BMW and striking Rodger in his left hip. Rodger again sped off, but crashed his BMW into an SUV parked about two blocks away.

Later, the bodies of three men -- Weihan "David" Wang, 20; Cheng Yuan "James" Hong, 20; and George Chen, 19 -- were found in Rodger's apartment. Brown said all three had been stabbed multiple times.

Many details of the attack remain unclear, as sheriff's officials have kept tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation.

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara County Dist. Atty. Joyce Dudley told The Times that she had filed and was granted a motion to dismiss a criminal conviction against Hong for allegedly taking $22 worth of candles from Rodger. Hong and Chen lived with Rodger at a Seville Road apartment.

"I did it in the interest of justice," Dudley said. "I sent his family the documentation that he now has no criminal record. It was so small -- it is the right thing to do."

In January, Rodger accused Hong of stealing three candles from him, officials said. Rodger performed a citizen's arrest and sheriff's deputies ultimately booked Hong on suspicion of petty theft, a charge the district attorney's office later filed.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the incident grew from a disagreement over Hong's cooking. Rodger, the sources said, objected to some of the cooking and took a utensil from Hong.