Santa Barbara authorities were told nearly a year before Elliot Rodger’s deadly rampage that he had tried to push several people off a 10-foot ledge during a party in Isla Vista, according to records made public on Wednesday.
A witness reported the incident to deputies while they were investigating claims by Rodger that he was attacked and called a homophobic slur that night.
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department concluded that Rodger was the aggressor in the altercations. But for reasons that are unclear, they dropped the case without further investigating the accusations against Rodger.
The report offers more details on the July 20, 2013, altercation, the first of three times deputies contacted Rodger in the months leading up to his May 23 attack. But reports also raise more questions about those interactions, and about information deputies had when they conducted a welfare check on Rodger just three weeks before he killed six UCSB students.
The July incident was characterized as a potential hate crime because Rodger said one of his attackers had called him a derogatory term for a gay person, according to the police report. He said he was pushed off a 10-foot ledge and later beaten up by a group of 10 men — allegations he also described in a 137-page diatribe outlining his motives.
Rodger told deputies he had gone to a party the night of July 20 — just days before his 22nd birthday — where he got into a “verbal altercation” with four men, the report said. At one point, Rodger said, he called one of the men “ugly” and was “pushed off a 10-foot-high ledge” onto the sidewalk.
Rodger told authorities he then stumbled to a nearby frontyard and sat down in chair. Several minutes later, according to the report, Rodger said a group of 10 men approached him and told him to “get … out of here.”
“He said the subjects then grabbed him and dragged him toward the driveway kicking and punching him,” the report said. “He said he was able to punch one of the subjects before they stopped attacking him.”
Deputies contacted Rodger at a local hospital the next day. The report noted Rodger had injuries to his forearms, elbows, knuckles, face and left ankle.
Rodger told the deputies he didn’t know why he was beaten up or called the slur, the report said. When asked why he didn’t call police after the assault, Rodger said he “didn’t know who to call.”
“During my contact with Rodger he appeared to not be forthcoming with me,” the deputy wrote. “He appeared timid and shy and would not go into great detail about what had occurred.”
However, a witness told deputies it was a man matching Rodger’s description who started the fight when he tried to push two young women off the ledge. Neither fell, the witness said, but Rodger pushed two more people before “jumping off” the ledge and running away.
The witness said he didn’t know what provoked the man, the report said. He told deputies the man was alone at the party, that his “demeanor was strange and he did not appear to be socializing.”
In his own writing, Rodger admitted to trying to push the partygoers after the girls ignored him.
“I tried to push as many of them as I could from the 10-foot ledge,” he wrote. “It was one of the most foolish and rash things I ever did, and I almost risked everything in doing it, but I was so drunk with rage that I didn’t care.”
Rodger said a group of men then started to push him, causing him to fall to the street below. He tried to go back to find his missing Gucci sunglasses, he said, but stumbled into the yard where the fight later happened.
“A whole group of the obnoxious brutes came up and dragged me onto their driveway, pushing and hitting me,” he wrote. “I wanted to fight and kill them all.”
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office did not return calls seeking comment on the report.
Nearly six months later, on Jan. 15, sheriff’s deputies again contacted Rodger, this time during a dispute he was having with one of his roommates. According to a second police report summarizing that incident, Rodger called 911 and accused his roommate of stealing three candles worth $22. Rodger had placed his roommate under a citizen’s arrest.
The roommate, Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, told deputies he believed Rodger had taken one of his rice bowls and moved other belongings around the apartment. Rodger denied the claims, the report said.
Hong declined to return the candles, the deputy wrote, and was handcuffed and taken to jail. The Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office later charged him with petty theft, but cleared the infraction after Hong’s death.
Hong was one of three men authorities say Rodger stabbed to death in his apartment before embarking on his rampage across the streets of Isla Vista. Three other people were killed before Rodger died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
On Wednesday, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced two new bills inspired by the attack.
The first would require law enforcement officers to first check a state firearms database when investigating whether a person might be a danger to himself or others. Santa Barbara sheriff’s officials have said the deputies who conducted an April 30 welfare check on Rodger did not run his name in the database, which would have revealed he had legally purchased three handguns.
The second bill would provide grants to local law enforcement agencies so they can help clear a backlog of thousands of gun owners who purchased firearms legally but whose weapons should be confiscated because of subsequent criminal convictions or significant mental health problems that disqualify them from gun ownership under California law.
Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.