‘Disturbing’ videos by Elliot Rodger not viewed by deputies
Flowers placed at the I.V. Deli in Isla Vista on May 25, 2014, form a part of a makeshift memorial to victims of a shooting rampage.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Sheriff’s deputies who checked on Elliot Rodger’s welfare less than a month before his deadly rampage in Isla Vista knew of “disturbing” videos he posted online but did not watch them, officials said Thursday.
Santa Barbara sheriff’s officials released new details about the April 30 welfare check. Rodger’s attack last Friday’s attack left six UC Santa Barbara students dead and 13 other people injured.
Four deputies, a UC Santa Barbara police officer and a dispatcher in training went to Rodger’s apartment the night of April 30 for the welfare check, officials said Thursday.
The visit occurred after a person who identified himself as a friend of Rodger’s called a county mental health staff member. Based on that call and information from Rodger’s mother, sheriff’s officials said, 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, concerned over bizarre videos her son had posted on YouTube.
The family friend said the therapist contacted a mental health service, who referred it to police. The Sheriff’s Department did not detail the content of the videos, describing them only as “disturbing.”
The family friend said the videos Rodger’s mother had seen before the welfare check were less menacing than the now-infamous video he posted just before the rampage, in which he threatened violence.
Typically, only two deputies respond to welfare checks, sheriff’s officials said. But the group who went to Rodger’s Seville Road apartment included deputies who were “familiar with Rodger” from a January incident, when he accused his rooomate of stealing $22 worth of candles.
When the group spoke to the 22-year-old outside his apartment, the department said, he was “shy, timid and polite.”
“When questioned by the deputies about reported disturbing videos he had posted online, Rodger told them he was having trouble fitting in socially in Isla Vista and the videos were merely a way of expressing himself,” the statement said.
“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.”
One of the deputies called Rodger’s mother and, after briefing her on the interaction, passed the phone to Rodger, officials said. Rodger “told her he was fine and that he would call her later.”
Deputies then gave Rodger contact information about local services he could use “if he needed help,” and left. The interaction lasted about 10 minutes, officials said.
Sheriff’s officials have remained tight-lipped about the rampage, calling it “one of the most complex investigations” in the department’s history.
But, they said Thursday, based on the information reviewed so far, “the deputies who responded handled the call in a professional manner consistent with state law and department policy.”
Authorities say Rodger fatally stabbed three men -- Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, 20, George Chen, 19, and Weihan “David” Wang, 20, all students at UC Santa Barbara -- inside his apartment before driving his BMW down the streets of Isla Vista on Friday night, firing out the window and veering his car toward pedestrians.
Three other UC Santa Barbara students were killed: Katherine Cooper, 22; Veronika Weiss, 19; and Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20.
Flores reported from Isla Vista and Mather and Winton from Los Angeles.
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