Elliot Rodger had planned his deadly attack on the Isla Vista community for more than a year, spending thousands of dollars in order to arm and train himself to kill as many people as possible, according to a report on the incident released Thursday by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Twice the 22-year-old canceled unleashing his planned rampage. But when he did, he was prepared.
In a timeline provided in the report, deputies point to 14 separate incidents of Elliot preparing for the May 23 attack starting in December 2012. He spent nearly $2,500 between December 2012 and March 2013 purchasing guns and ammo from stores in Burbank, Goleta and Los Angeles.
Starting in January 2014 – just a few months before the attack, Rodger began visiting gun ranges in Oxnard and nearby areas. He made two separate ammunition purchases in March and visited two gun ranges in April, a month before the shooting.
“This activity indicates the suspect was ‘ramping up’ in the planning and rehearsing stages prior to committing the crimes on May 23, 2014,” the report said.
His final purchase noted in the report is a triple vanilla latte from Starbucks about 7:30 p.m. Two hours later, the first calls to 911 started flooding into police dispatch.
Rodger killed six people before shooting himself. The slayings started in an apartment he shared with two of his victims – Weihann “David” Wang, 20, and Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, 20. The two were ambushed separately as they entered the apartment, stabbed to death and left in their bedroom. Rodger then killed their friend, George Chen, 19, and left his body in the bathroom.
Authorities believe that Rodger ambushed his first three victims as they entered the apartment one at a time.
Autopsies by the coroner revealed that Rodger stabbed Chen 94 times, with half of the wounds to his upper body. Wang had 15 stab wounds. Hong had 25 stab wounds and had apparently managed to try to defend himself based on cuts to his hands and arms.
Investigators believe Rodger “may have been practicing his stabbing/slashing movements in order to … prepare himself for the attacks against his victims.”
Deputies said that Rodgers left his laptop on and open on his bed, on the screen was the YouTube page where Rodger had just uploaded his video titled “Retribution.” He also posted a 137-page autobiographical essay that laid out his motives on a blogging website.
After he left the apartment, Rodger got into his BMW and sped across Isla Vista and fired more than 55 times. But he still had about 550 rounds of ammunition with him. He fatally shot three people and wounded 13 others before shooting himself. He was wounded once when he exchanged fire with law enforcement who were swarming the area. The shooting lasted only eight minutes.
In the wake of the shooting, questions were raised about how the attack could have been prevented. Deputies had encountered Rodger several times in the past through conflicts with his roommate, a fight at a party and, lastly, a welfare check initiated by his concerned mother.
The report states that, legally, deputies had no right to search Rodger’s room, where he had a stockpile of weapons, when they met with him April 30 at the request of his mother.
“There was nothing during the contact with [Rodger] that gave the deputies reason to believe he was a danger to himself or others. Such risk factors are required in order to place someone on an involuntary mental health hold, or to legally search their residence.”
His mother had told deputies about some of his disturbing videos. The deputies never watched the videos and Rodger’s mother said they did not appear to be homicidal or suicidal in nature, according to the report. So the deputies left.
The shooting reignited the national debate on gun control because Rodger’s guns were purchased legally despite a history of mental-health concerns by his family. It also launched a conversation about misogyny and entitlement by men; in a series of sometimes disturbing, often rambling video messages posted to YouTube, Rodger complained that he was a virgin who couldn’t find a girlfriend despite his money and supposed attributes.
In his final video and essay posted online just minutes before he began the rampage, Rodger vowed to take revenge on the women of Isla Vista for these perceived slights.
In the wake of the shooting, California passed a law that allowed guns to be temporarily seized from people determined to be dangerous, and Washington voters approved a measure that closed a loophole in federal laws that require background checks before firearm purchases.
The report revealed for the first time Roger’s apparent interest in Nazi figures, including some of the main architects of the Holocaust.
“Upon review of the suspect’s Internet search history, investigators have learned that the suspect was very interested in some of the practices and techniques of the Third Reich,” the report said. “The suspect’s in-depth research included information about Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, two infamous members of the Nazi hierarchy.”
The report noted that Himmler’s date of death coincided with the date of Rodger's attack -- May 23. The report, however, says this appears to be purely coincidental.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.
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