In a college community, disbelief turns to outrage and mourning
At 4 a.m. Saturday, six hours after the Isla Vista shooting stopped, Bob and Colleen Weiss sat in their car in front of a pizza place in grim suspense.
Their daughter hadn’t returned to her room, and sheriff’s deputies couldn’t tell them yet whether she was one of the victims.
Veronika Weiss, 19, a UC Santa Barbara freshman, was not the type to stay out this late, and she would certainly call her parents on a terrible night like this. When they didn’t hear from her after news of the rampage broke, they drove up from their home in Thousand Oaks.
Now the Weisses opened their daughter’s Find my iPhone app on their phone. They looked at the digital map that popped up, with an icon indicating her phone location.
They pulled away and drove to the spot on Embarcadero del Norte: a house cordoned off with crime scene tape.
They did not scream. They did not cry. They sat in silent shock.
That same sense of disbelief tore through this college community and the families of the other young people killed — incomprehension turning to outrage and mourning.
The mound of bouquets outside Alpha Phi sorority, where Weiss and another member of the Tri Delta sorority were killed, grew Sunday as mourners continued to pay their respects. Early in the evening, about 40 members of the Isla Vista Church gathered in small groups to clutch hands and pray.
At I.V. Deli Mart, where Christopher Michaels-Martinez was shot down, people stuffed flowers into the bullet holes that spidered the front window.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department identified all six victims Sunday. Weiss and her sorority sister Katherine Breann Cooper, 22, of Chino Hills, were shot in the grass in front of the sorority. Michaels-Martinez, 20, of San Luis Obispo, was killed nearby at the deli. Three other victims — Weihan Wang, 20, of Fremont and Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, and George Chen, 19, both of San Jose — were stabbed to death in the suspect’s apartment.
All were students at UCSB.
The attacker, Elliot Rodger, 22, died of what authorities suspect was a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a shootout with sheriff’s deputies.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown did not offer details about when the stabbings took place. Hong and Chen were Rodger’s roommates, and in the 137-page screed he wrote about his life and his plans to exact revenge on humanity, he said he had come to despise them.
In January, Rodger accused Hong, a computer science major who grew up in Taipei, of stealing three candles, valued at $22.
When Hong said he didn’t know where the candles were, Rodger performed a citizen’s arrest and called 911. Sheriff’s deputies found the candles on Hong’s bed. He was arrested and charged with a petty theft infraction, according to the district attorney’s office.
“I knew that when the Day of Retribution came, I would have to kill my housemates to get them out of the way,” Rodger wrote. “If they were pleasant to live with, I would regret having to kill them, but due to their behavior I now had no regrets about such a prospect. In fact, I’d even enjoy stabbing them both to death while they slept.”
Rodger wrote that women had rejected him since puberty, and he directed much of his rage at them — particularly the pretty, popular, blond ones he coveted. In describing his plans, he said he would storm the Alpha Phi house because they were the “hottest girls.” But when he went there Friday night and knocked aggressively on the front door, they refused to let him in. So he turned and opened fire on three women approaching the home, critically wounding one and killing Weiss and Cooper, who were Tri Delta sisters.
Weiss said he and his wife had planned to visit their daughter Sunday to go shopping on State Street downtown. She was so wise and mature beyond her years, he said, that he would go to her for advice if he was having a problem with her younger brothers or even a minor argument with his wife.
She was a tomboy, a tough, gregarious girl who held her own as the only girl out of 500 players in the Westlake baseball league, he said. She participated in four sports in high school — cross country, baseball, swimming and water polo — while earning straight A’s with a particular strength in math.
She was loud and “she made everybody else laugh.”
He said he knows that Veronika would have put herself in harm’s way to help her friends or even the young man who shot her. “She always reacted to a situation quickly. She always wanted to help. She was very courageous.
“She will be an inspiration to me every day of my life,” he said. “There was never a day I wasn’t proud of her. Never a single day.”
After the attacker shot the sorority sisters, he drove his black BMW to I.V. Deli Mart two blocks away and opened fire. Bullets shattered the windows, and Michaels-Martinez, a sophomore English major, slumped to the floor.
His freshman roommate, Jeff Dolphin, said Michaels-Martinez had helped him through the nerves and struggles of their first year on campus.
“Chris was just an amazing guy,” he said. “If I was going through something, he was always there for me. If I needed something, he was there. If I needed a textbook, if I was locked out of the room because I forgot my key, he would stop playing basketball or doing what he was doing to unlock the door so I didn’t have to get charged. He was just a great guy.”
Chris’ father, Richard Martinez, spoke angrily and emotionally to reporters outside the Sheriff’s Department on Saturday, railing against the NRA and politicians beholden to it.
“Our family has a message for every parent out there: You don’t think it will happen to your child until it does,” he said. “His death has left our family lost and broken.”
In a phone interview Sunday, Martinez said his son was a hardworking student and avid reader who loved playing soccer, football and basketball.
“Sometimes he was the most skilled player on the field, and even if he wasn’t, he was the most determined player on the field,” Martinez said.
Michaels-Martinez planned to go to law school and was preparing for a year studying in London.
“He was just a terrific kid in every way,” Martinez said. “You couldn’t really ask for a better kid, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his father.”
Martinez said he wants to meet Rodger’s father and work toward preventing future tragedies.
“I lost my son. He lost his son. We have that in common,” Martinez said. “We want, if possible, that the deaths of our son and his son should mean something.”
Contributing to this report were Times staff writers Julie Cart and Stephen Ceasar in Santa Barbara, and Abby Sewell, Amina Khan and Laura Nelson in Los Angeles.
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