A former roommate of Isla Vista killer Elliot Rodger said he and the community “failed” to heed warning signs of potential violence in the troubled recluse and wishes he had done more.
In an interview with ABC News that aired Thursday, UC Santa Barbara junior Chris Rugg said he heard about Rodger’s killing spree last weekend while he was in San Diego and remembered not feeling surprised, which troubled him.
“When I saw his face and his name, when it dawned on me that it was Elliot who had done all of this, my first feeling was, ‘Wow, he actually did it,’” Rugg said. “And the moment after I felt that, I realized if I’m not surprised, that this is something that he would have done, then why did I not say anything?”
The news was grim. The 22-year-old had sped through the streets of the seaside college town of Isla Vista, Calif., running down bicyclists and shooting at pedestrians and convenience store customers.
The attack killed three and wounded 13 others. Police later found the bodies of Elliot Rodger’s three roommates in his apartment. They had been stabbed to death.
The six victims were: Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20; Weihan “David” Wang, 20; Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, 20; Veronika Weiss, 19; Katie Cooper, 22; and George Chen, 19.
Rodger fatally shot himself as police closed in after he crashed his car during the attack.
The rampage sent those who had known Rodger, including Rugg, combing their memories for clues in his behavior that may have served as red flags.
Rugg recalled attempts to connect with Rodger. He and his roommate invited Rodger out four or five times when they’d leave for the gym or to go eat. Each time, Rodger refused, Rugg said. Their conversations were stilted, with Rodger “just trying to get to the end of the conversation.”
After awhile, they just stopped inviting Rodger out.
“They always describe recluses who stay in their room but have some sort of paralyzing issues and that’s exactly what was happening with Elliot,” Rugg said. “He never left his room and he was having these deep phone calls that were about things that seriously troubled him and I had a pretty bad feeling about Elliot at the time.”
But not all of Rodger’s behavior went ignored. His family had seen some of his videos describing his frustration about connecting with people – women in particular – and had sheriff’s deputies check on him earlier this year. Rodger had been seeing therapists since he was a kid and had been prescribed psychotropic drugs.
Rugg said he also overheard Rodger complain about his isolation to his father on the phone. Over time, Rodger’s frustration became more apparent, Rugg said.
“He’d talk about not doing well in school, things weren’t working out,” Rugg said. “They got angrier and louder and he was drunk for a lot of the later ones…there was a lot of frustration for how he’s not having a good time at school. He’d see all these girls hanging out with these guys. He’d try to do the same and it never seemed to work out.”
Rugg said he overheard Rodger’s conversations with his father through the apartment walls. Since the shooting, other outlets for Rodger’s frustrations have emerged, including YouTube videos and a 137-page manifesto that he posted online just before the killings the night of May 23.
In the manifesto, Rodger described an encounter at an Isla Vista party when his anger culminated in a drunken attempt to shove two women off a 10-foot ledge. As Rodger described, he was unsuccessful and eventually beaten up by partygoers. One of those at the party, Yukito Isoda, talked about the encounter in an interview with KTLA.
“I vividly remember that night…he was really drunk and obnoxious and started kind of stumbling into us,” Isoda said.
Isoda was there visiting a friend’s party and said he put himself between Rodger and the women and pushed back.
“Next thing I know, he’s tumbling over the fence and ran away,” Isoda said. In hindsight, he added, “I would have pushed him harder off the ledge if I had the chance.”