Hundreds of students, faculty and community members — carrying small blue lights and wearing friendship bracelets — gathered in a palm-dotted plaza at UC Santa Barbara on Saturday evening, one year after Elliot Rodger embarked on a killing spree that left six dead and several more injured before he took his own life.
After six chimes tolled from a campus tower, the crowd streamed through the plaza toward People’s Park, where there was a memorial to honor those killed and injured in the attack.
Rodger, 22, suffering a profound sense of alienation and anger, had spent nearly two years planning the rampage.
The mother of one of his victims, George Chen, who was 19 and a friend of Rodger’s roommates, was scheduled to speak at the event. In a written statement, Kelly Wang recalled how she did not get to hear Chen’s voice this Mother’s Day.
“It breaks my heart when I think of him,” she wrote. “My sweet boy is gone forever, without a sign or warning, without having a chance to say goodbye.”
She said police should have done a more thorough search of Rodger’s apartment when, less than a month before the killings, they conducted a welfare check because his mother was concerned about his behavior. Rodger had at least two guns in the apartment and later wrote that if the authorities had searched his room, “that would have ended everything.”
“When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me,” he wrote in a 137-page document detailing his plan.
A nine-month investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department concluded that deputies had had no reason to put Rodger on a mental health hold or conduct any further investigation.
“There was nothing during the contact with [Rodger] that gave the deputies reason to believe he was a danger to himself or others,” a report of the investigation stated. “Such risk factors
are required in order to
place someone on an involuntary mental health hold, or to legally search their residence.”
The son of a Hollywood director, Rodger appeared to have no friends at Santa Barbara City College, where he was a student. He was obsessed with losing his virginity, and seethed about women and the men who got to date them, according to the sheriff’s report.
On May 23, 2014, Rodger fatally stabbed his roommates — Weihan “David” Wang, 20, and Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, 20 — along with Chen, in their apartment. Three hours later, he went on a shooting rampage.
Authorities said he hit seven people with his car and shot at pedestrians as he drove through town, firing at least 55 rounds. The three UCSB students shot to death were Veronika Weiss, 19; Katie Cooper, 22; and Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20. Fourteen others were wounded.
After exchanging gunfire with law enforcement officers, Rodger shot himself.
He had prepared for the attack for nearly two years — stockpiling guns and visiting local target ranges, officials said. He did Internet research on Nazis, terrorists and how to kill people.
Saturday’s vigil began on campus before dusk with a solemn dance by a troupe of women clad in white, a somber a capella performance of “Amazing Grace” and a moment of silence to reflect on the lives lost. The names of the six dead were read aloud.
Afterward, the crowd streamed silently away from the plaza, blue lights glowing. The sole sounds were their footfalls and a few evening songbirds.