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Deputies who checked on Isla Vista attacker didn't watch his videos

Law EnforcementElliot RodgerShootingsCrimeIsla Vista ShootingPoliticsInterior Policy
Officials: Deputies who performed April 30 welfare check on Elliot Rodger didn't view 'disturbing' videos
Sheriff's officials: Elliot Rodger told deputies 'disturbing' videos were "merely a way of expressing himself"
Sheriff's officials offer new details in Isla Vista rampage

Sheriff's deputies who performed a welfare check on Elliot Rodger less than a month before he killed six people in Isla Vista did not view the "disturbing" videos the 22-year-old had posted online, which Rodger said were "merely a way of expressing himself," officials said Thursday.

Santa Barbara sheriff's officials released new details Thursday about the April 30 welfare check, which came nearly a month before the rampage that left seven people, including Rodger, dead and 13 others injured.

According to a statement from the sheriff's office, four deputies, a UC Santa Barbara police officer assigned to the Isla Vista foot patrol and a dispatcher in training went to Rodger's apartment the night of April 30, after a person who identified himself as Rodger's friend called a county mental health staff member. 

Based on information from that caller and Rodger's mother, sheriff's officials said, the mental health staff member contacted sheriff's deputies and requested the welfare check. Officials did not elaborate what the information entailed.

Typically, only two deputies would respond to such a call, the department said. But the group who went to Rodger's apartment included deputies who weren't assigned to the call but were "familiar with Rodger" from a January 2014 case when he accused his roommate of stealing candles from him.

Details about the videos were not available. The Sheriff's Department described them as "disturbing" but do not provide details or return calls seeking comment.

Rodger posted several videos in which he threatened violence before last week's killings. He posted one more video Friday, 10 minutes before he began shooting, officials said, long after the welfare check.

When deputies in April arrived at Rodger's Seville Road apartment, officials said, they spoke to the 22-year-old outside.

"Deputies found Rodger to be shy, timid and polite," officials said. "When questioned by the deputies about reported disturbing videos he had posted online, Rodger told them he was having trouble fitting in socially in Isla Vista and the videos were merely a way of expressing himself."

"Based upon the information available to them at the time," the statement continued, "sheriff's deputies concluded that Rodger was not an immediate threat to himself or others, and that they did not have cause to place him on an involuntary mental health hold, or to enter and search his residence. Therefore, they did not view the videos or conduct a weapons check on Rodger."

One of the deputies called Rodger's mother and, after briefing her on the interaction, passed the phone to Rodger, the department said. Rodger "told her he was fine and that he would call her later."

Deputies also gave Rodger contact information for local services, including the Sheriff's Department, that he could use "if he needed help," officials said.

The interaction lasted about 10 minutes, the department said.

"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," the statement said.

Investigators have remained tight-lipped about the rampage, citing the "most complex investigations" in the department's history. 

Authorities allege Rodger killed three men -- identified as Cheng Yuan "James" Hong, 20, George Chen, 19, and Weihan "David" Wang, 20, all students at UC Santa Barbara -- inside his apartment before driving his BMW down the streets of Isla Vista on Friday night, firing out the window and veering his car toward pedestrians. Three other UC Santa Barbara students were killed: Katherine Cooper, 22; Veronika Weiss, 19; and Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20.

About an hour after the shooting began, officials said Thursday, they learned of a 137-page document and YouTube video in which Rodger outlined what he called his "Day of Retribution."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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