Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six students in the college town of Isla Vista in 2014, was the first “alt-right killer” to strike in recent years, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The report counts Rodger among 13 alleged alt-right killers whose actions left 43 people dead and more than 60 injured since 2014.
The alleged perpetrators were all men and most were under 30 years of age, the report says. The common thread: All participated in the “far-right ecosystem that defines the alt-right.”
One of them made several references to Rodger before carrying out his attack last year, the report says.
William Edward Atchison used the pseudonym of “Elliot Rodger” online and praised the “supreme gentleman,” a moniker Rodger gave himself that became an alt-right meme, according to the report. Atchison, 21, entered a New Mexico high school Dec. 7 and killed two students before taking his own life.
The list also includes Dylann Roof, the white supremacist convicted of fatally shooting nine black members of a Bible study class in South Carolina in 2015.
Kelly Hoover, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, said she had not read the Law Center’s report but noted that investigators had previously documented Rodger’s interest in Nazi figures.
“That’s something that did come out as part of the investigation,” Hoover said.
A 2015 report by the sheriff’s office revealed Rodger's research of Nazis, including some of the main architects of the Holocaust. The report does not mention the alt-right.
“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 sheriff’s report said. “The suspect's in-depth research included information about Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, two infamous members of the Nazi hierarchy.”
The internet search history log shows Rodger had looked for terms such as “If you were Adolf Hitler” and “Nazi curbstomp.”
The sheriff’s 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.
The Law Center’s report says the “timeline for alt-right killers began on May 23, 2014.” On that day, 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.
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.
Deputies said Rodger 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 and his racist beliefs.
“How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself,” Rodger wrote. “I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves.”
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 fatally shooting himself. He was wounded once when he exchanged fire with law enforcement officials who were swarming the area. The shooting rampage lasted only eight minutes.
The shooting reignited the national debate on gun control because Rodger's weapons were purchased legally despite his family expressing concerns for his mental health. 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.
After 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.