Isla Vista attacks: Sororities' members on edge after rampage

Isla Vista attacks: Sororities' members on edge after rampage
Friends hold hands as they remember Veronika Weiss and Katherine Cooper outside the Alpha Phi sorority house in Isla Vista, where the two young women were gunned down Friday. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

There is a politely-worded "go away" note taped to the front door of the Alpha Phi sorority.

Two uniformed security guards are stationed at the house, where three women from the nearby Delta Delta Delta sorority were gunned down by Elliot Rodger during his killing rampage in this Santa Barbara County coastal community.


At 9:30 p.m. Friday, Rodger got in his car and drove to the Alpha Phi sorority house, where he banged aggressively on the door for more than a minute, authorities said. When no one opened the door, he took aim at three women standing outside, killing Katherine Cooper, 22, and Veronika Weiss, 19, and wounding the other woman.

Rodger outlined his plans for his "war on women" in a 137-page diatribe and on several videos posted on the Internet. And he specifically singled out the Alpha Phi sorority.

"I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender: The hottest sorority of UCSB," the 22-year-old Rodger wrote. In multiple online videos, he vowed to kill people quietly at his home, then go to a sorority house to "slaughter" women.

"Fortunately, no one opened the door" at the sorority house, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. But before leaving, Rodger shot the three women on the front lawn.

According to authorities, Rodger then steered his BMW through the streets of Isla Vista, driving by a nearby deli and fatally shooting 20-year-old student Christopher Michaels-Martinez.

Rodger eventually ran into the back of a jeep and came to a halt, the right wheel well of his BMW on fire, the driver's door thrown open. Authorities found him dead inside the car.

Rodger's rampage started in his apartment, where he fatally stabbed two of his roommates and another individual, authorities said.

Santa Barbara County officials on Sunday identified the stabbing victims as Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, of San Jose; George Chen, 19, of San Jose; and Weihan Wang, 20, of Fremont. They were stabbed multiple times in Rodger's apartment on Seville Road. Hong and Chen were roommates.

Finding their bodies inside the apartment was "a horrific crime scene," Brown said. All of Rodger's victims were UC Santa Barbara students.

Hidden in Rodger's bedroom were three guns purchased legally from licensed dealers in Goleta, Oxnard and Burbank, authorities said. They said Rodger used the guns and his black BMW to wreak havoc across a square mile of the quiet college town -- running down cyclists and skateboarders, shooting through shop windows and exchanging fire with officers.

For the women who are part of the university's sorority system, Rodger's hate-filled sentiments have put them on edge. He made his thinking clear in YouTube videos and in his screed, in which he ascribed his life of loneliness and misery to snubs and inattention from popular and pretty sorority women. "I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex. ... I cannot kill every single female on earth, but I can deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts," he wrote.

"We didn't know until we got millions of texts from alums asking if our girls were all right," said Catherine Romero, president of Sigma Alpha Zeta. "We were a bit thrown off -- we were the targets? It's over, but now there's a Facebook fan page for this guy, so maybe there are other people who think like him."

Rodger's sentiments were repeated, many times in the videos he posted. "I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there," Rodger promised.

"Once I watched the video, that's when I was freaking out," Romero said. "I was thinking, 'It could have been any one of us.'"


She has counseled her sorority sisters to take precautions, which were promptly implemented when five of her friends drove her the few blocks to work on Saturday and returned to pick her up. She has asked that the members refrain from wearing clothing with the sorority's Greek letters and generally keep a lower profile.

Romero and many other sorority women were called home for the weekend by anxious parents. She admitted that she felt safer at home, but chafed at telling everyone in her chapter to constantly look over their shoulder.

"I've said to them, 'You cannot stop living your life because of someone's actions'," Romero said.

With just two weeks left in the semester, there's scant time for campus-wide workshops on violence and attitudes toward women. To Melyssa Sibal, president of Sigma Kappa Chi, the stereotypical attitudes that Rodger appeared to hold about sororities are surprising.

"We've tried hard to combat that kind of image," she said. "Now, to be targeted in that way. ... I can't find the words."

Kathy Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, has been tracking misogynistic attitudes, and says much of the hate is fueled on the Internet and social media. Rodger, she said, found a like-minded community on social sites and chat rooms.

"This cult of masculinity is all too much fed into our popular media," she said. "Women and girls are objectified as the 'other,' as objects to be conquered. We should not be surprised that a person this mentally ill focused on women as the 'other' that had harmed him."

Romero said "we've had this conversation before" and women students are ever more attuned to potential threats.

But to sororities, this attack was personal.

"Knowing that sorority sisters passed away put more of a toll on the situation," she said. "It could have been any one of us. We put ourselves in that place. We are a Greek community."

Mariana Estephanian, chapter president of Pi Beta Phi, said it was "horrifying to see [Rodger] come after us. We are so thankful Alpha Phi didn't open their door."