Friends and classmates of three victims said Monday they were struggling with the idea that mass killer Elliot Rodger had overpowered and killed three grown men by himself in his Isla Vista apartment without any noise to attract neighbors.
Weihan "David" Wang, 20, and two other UCSB undergraduates, Cheng Yuan "James" Hong, 20, and George Chen, 19, were found stabbed to death in the rental they shared with Rodger, 22. Authorities say he killed the trio before embarking on a shooting rampage that left three more dead and 13 wounded Friday.
"If a person was in danger for his life, I think he would try everything to escape. From a door. From a window," said Zhe Lu, a computer science major who knew the victims. "It keeps making me wonder if there is a second killer."
Bonan Yan, another computer science major who took classes with the men, added, "It's kind of unbelievable."
As part of a computer programming class last year, Yan, Lu and classmate and fellow computer science major Wei Guo worked with Wang to create a campus guide app called Gaucho Life. Wang, from Fremont, was a hard worker who pitched in on tedious coding and never complained, his classmates said.
"When I heard the news, I was so shocked. He was such a normal person, like us," said Guo. "It's just so hard to imagine he's the roommate of that guy."
Hong, of San Jose, spent a lot of time in campus computer labs and often wore a smile.
"He was always wanting to help other guys. Always laughing," Guo said.
Wang, Chen and Hong were close friends as well as roommates, according to classmates. They had a shared Chinese heritage, and they loved playing video games and talking about computer engineering. Chen and Hong were the children of immigrants – Hong's from Taiwan – and Wang and his parents had emigrated from mainland China a decade ago.
"They were all optimistic guys," Yan said.
Friends of the trio said they believed Rodger was placed in the apartment by the complex management and that they never mentioned him.
"They are polite. I don't think they would fight with anyone," Yan said.
On April 27, Wang told Guo via text message that he had signed a contract on an apartment near Guo.
"He didn't talk about the reason he wanted to leave," Guo said.
Friends said it was hard to see how Rodger's rage at sororities and the campus party crowd had anything to do with the victims. Rodger outlined his rage and his violent intentions in a 137-page diatribe that he emailed to several people before embarking on his killing spree.
"Most Asian students here, the Chinese students especially, we are not into the party scene. We are just quiet and studying hard and I don't think we should be related to this at all. I can't figure it out," Lu said.
"These are not party guys -- James, David and George," Yan said.
Jane Liu, Wang's mother, told KNTV on Monday that her son was upset by loud music Rodger played in the middle of the night and had decided to move to another apartment for the next school year.
Liu, a nurse, said she and her husband, Charlie Wang, were devastated by the death of their only child. The 20-year-old, a graduate of Fremont Christian School, was planning to spend the summer with his parents in Fremont.
"What can I do without my son?" Liu said. "My son, my whole life, I'm so proud of him."