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Sheriff's handling of Elliot Rodger visit raises questions

Questions were raised this week about whether the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department properly handled a welfare check on alleged Isla Vista attacker Elliot Rodger a month before the violence that left seven dead.

The department acknowledged this week that deputies didn't know Rodger had legally obtained weapons and didn't review what it described as distrurbing videos Rodger had posted online.

"The issue of weapons did not come up," Sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said. "We had no information that he had weapons or reason to believe he had weapons."

Rodger had legally purchased handguns, which would have come up during a check of law enforcement weapons databases. At least two of them had been purchased before Rodger's encounters with authorities.

The Sheriff's office has defended its handling of the Rodger case. It said its deputies acted properly, including an April welfare check at Rodger's apartment.

On April 30, four deputies, a UC Santa Barbara police officer and a dispatcher in training went to Rodger's apartment, officials said Thursday.

The visit occurred after a person who identified himself as a friend of Rodger called a county mental health staff member. Based on that call and information from Rodger's mother, sheriff's officials said in a statement released Thursday, the staffer requested the welfare check.

Sheriff's officials did not detail what information the deputies had when they made the visit. But a Rodger family friend told The Times that Rodger's mother had contacted his therapist in April out of concern over bizarre videos Rodger posted on YouTube. The family friend said the therapist contacted a mental health service, who referred the matter to authorities.

The Sheriff's office did not detail the content of the videos. It’s unclear whether the videos posted back in April included some of the recordings Rodger posted on YouTube the day of the rampage. The family friend said the videos Rodger's mother saw in April were less menacing than the now-infamous video he posted May 23 in which he threatens violence.

When the group spoke to the 22-year-old outside his apartment, the department said, he was "shy, timid and polite."

"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."

Hoover, the Sheriff's spokeswoman, did not provide details Friday beyond her statement. In his writings, Rodger said he purchased a Glock 34 semiautomatic pistol for about $700 and got it in mid-December 2012. He said he purchased a Sig Sauer P226 for $1,100 in the spring of 2013. He purchased the third weapon early this year, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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