When Bob and Colleen Weiss learned that their daughter may have been a victim in the Isla Vista shooting rampage, they immediately got in their car late Friday night and drove from their home in Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara.
But once they arrived in the Santa Barbara County coastal community around midnight, authorities were unable confirm whether 19-year-old Veronika Weiss was among those killed. It was hours before they heard back from sheriff’s officials.
“It was 4 o clock in the morning and Veronika’s not a 4 o’clock in the morning type of girl,” Bob Weiss said in an interview Sunday. “I’m not a fool. I knew what happened.”
After a student riot broke out in Isla Vista in March, Veronika called her parents and told them, “I’m safe in my room. Don’t worry about me.”
This time she didn’t call. They used her “Find my iPhone” app and her phone was in the middle of one of the crime scenes, her dad said.
Bob Weiss said his daughter was wise and mature beyond her years. He said he would go to her for advice sometimes if he was having a problem with her brothers, Cooper, 17, and Jackson, 15, or even a minor argument with his wife.
Weiss said his daughter was always a tomboy. She played four sports in high school, which is a rarity. She participated in cross country, baseball, swimming and water polo and she earned straight A’s. Her strength was math.
Starting at age 6 she loved playing softball, he said. Later she played baseball. He said she was the only girl out of 500 players in the Westlake baseball league.
“She was tough,” he said. “She was a big strong girl and she was tough.”
On the water polo team at Westlake High School, which she graduated from, the coach always put her as the defense player against the top scorer on the opposing team.
He said she always organized events for her circle of friends. He described her friends as nerds and serious students. They would study every Friday night and it was not unusual for her to spend Sundays working on her advanced math work. “She loved it,” he said.
He said many of her friends went on to other prestigious schools such as Princeton and she wanted to go to the University of Washington. But the out-of-state tuition and financial situation made that prohibitive.
“She would always wear her purple and gold University of Washington sweat shirt,” he said.
“She wanted to be a financial wizard, and use her high aptitude with complicated math.”
He said her mother and grandmother belonged to the tri-Delta sorority so it makes sense that she would join it too at UC Santa Barbara. She didn’t know many people at the Santa Barbara campus but the sorority gave her a built-in circle of friends, he said.
Weiss said this was the second death in her high school group of friends. A boy committed suicide last fall.
He described her as being gregarious. She liked to laugh a lot, he said. She was loud and “she made everybody else laugh.”
“She was happy all the time,” he added.
She graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA.
He said she would sometimes visit him at his office in Newbury Park. She would just come over spontaneously and bring him lunch and they would eat together. “Who does that? How many high school kids are thoughtful like that and want to spend time with their parents?”
Veronika and her parents had just gone snowboarding together two weeks ago in Mammoth. That was their last trip together. They had planned to spend Sunday together. Bob Weiss and his wife had planned to drive up to Santa Barbara to take her to lunch and go shopping on State Street.
He said he doesn’t know what happened Friday night but he does know 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.”