Deadly California rampage: Chilling video, but no match for reality
ISLA VISTA, California (CNN) — After promising a “day of retribution” on YouTube, a heavily armed, mentally disturbed 22-year-old went on a killing spree in a California college town, authorities said.
He fatally stabbed three men in his residence, shot two women to death in front of a sorority house, shot a man to death inside a deli, exchanged gunfire twice with police and injured 13 people as he drove from block to block, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office said Saturday night.
Elliot Rodger, 22, ended the Friday night rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, apparently by fatally shooting himself in the head while sitting behind the wheel of his wrecked BMW, Sheriff Bill Brown said.
Inside the car, police found three handguns — all legally purchased — and more than 400 rounds of unused ammunition, Brown said at a Saturday evening press conference.
The suspect formerly was a student at Santa Barbara City College and lived in Isla Vista, where the rampage occurred.
His father, Peter Rodger, works in the film industry and was the second unit assistant director on the first “The Hunger Games” film, according to a spokeswoman for Lionsgate.
The younger Rodger apparently telegraphed his intentions. The day before the rampage, he released a YouTube video entitled “Retribution,” in which he rants about women who ignored or rejected him over the past eight years, “since I hit puberty.”
“Tomorrow is the day of retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge,” he says on the video. “You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.” He specifically criticized sorority members.
Rodger appears to have further chronicled his rage in a 140-page account of his life that begins with his birth and ends with what he describes as “the Day of Retribution.” The document, titled “My Twisted World,” was obtained by CNN affiliate KEYT.
“It was apparent he was very mentally disturbed,” Brown said.
So disturbed that a family member asked law enforcement officers to check on his welfare April 30, Brown said. They went to his residence, found Rodger “polite and courteous,” and left, Brown said.
The rampage left six dead and 13 hurt, with eight suffering gunshot wounds, four hit by the suspect’s vehicle and one suffering a minor injury “of unknown origin,” Brown said.
At the press conference, Dr. Stephen Kaminski, trauma services director for Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, gave this account of 11 of the wounded: four treated and released, and seven transferred to Cottage Hospital. Of those seven, two were in good condition, three fair and two serious, he said.
Brown provided this sequence to the violence, which occurred in a crowded area bustling with activity on Memorial Day weekend. The action covered so much ground that officers worked 12 different crime scenes.
Spree apparently began with stabbings
First, three men were “repeatedly stabbed” and killed inside Rodger’s residence. They weren’t identified.
Next, members of the Alpha Phi sorority in Isla Vista reported hearing loud knocking on the front door for several minutes. Nobody answered. Several minutes later, witnesses saw three women in front of the sorority house shot by a man from across the street. Two were killed, one wounded. All were UC Santa Barbara students.
Rodger drove his black BMW several blocks, went into a delicatessen and shot Christoper Martinez to death, officials said. Martinez was a UC Santa Barbara student.
While driving around, sometimes on the wrong side of the street, Rodger shot at pedestrians on the sidewalk, authorities said. He encountered a sheriff’s deputy who was on foot and exchanged gunfire. He kept driving and hit a bicyclist, authorities said. He shot more pedestrians on the sidewalk.
He encountered four deputies on foot near a park and they exchanged gunfire. Rodger may have been hit in the hip. He drove away at a high rate of speed and hit another cyclist, who tumbled over the car’s hood and hit the windshield. The BMW collided with other cars and came to a stop.
Officers approached the car and found Rodger dead of a gunshot wound to the head. “It would appear he took his own life,” Brown said.
One family is speaking out in anger.
Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Martinez, said to reporters. “Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights, what about Chris’ right to live? When will this insanity stop?”
A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told CNN that Elliot Rodger passed the background check needed to buy the firearm used in the shooting. The official says nothing has been found in the gun trace to indicate Rodger shouldn’t have qualified to buy a gun.
Rodger had three previous contacts with authorities, the sheriff said.
On July 21, 2013, he talked to officers at the hospital, saying he’d been the victim of an assault. Officers thought he might have been the aggressor, Brown said.
On January 15, he called to complain a roommate had stolen three candles worth $22. Rodger later made a citizen’s arrest on the roommate for petty theft and the case was referred to the district attorney for prosecution, Brown said.
And, finally, the April 30 check at the request of a family member.
A life-and-death situation
The outburst of violence left students and residents stunned.
Kyle Sullivan, 19, a student at Santa Barbara City College, said he came upon three young women — all shot — on a lawn in front of the Alpha Phi sorority.
One woman appeared to be dead. Another was struggling and “just barely able to move her eyes,” he said. A third, with a kidney wound, was on the phone with her mother, saying she probably wasn’t going to make and “how much she loved her,” Sullivan said.
“I really wasn’t able to sleep at all,” Sullivan told CNN. “It was heartbreaking that something would happen in our community like this.”
The names of those women have not not released. Alphi Phi posted on its Facebook page Saturday that “all our members are safe.”
Nikolaus Becker, a high school senior visiting Isla Vista, was eating a burger in a restaurant with friends. They heard pops and thought fireworks. Some students were doing homework.
“We were actually joking around about it,” he said of the crackling sound. “People were riding their bikes around outside, and parties were still going on.”
Then Becker and friends heard two more sets of bangs. Police were running. A speeding car — moving at least 50 mph — screeched around a corner. When Becker finally went outside a half hour later, he saw body bags on the street.
One victim, Nick Pasichuke, told CNN he was struck by the gunman’s car.
“There are six other people currently hospitalized with me right now. … There was a guy driving a BMW. I was on a long board and he aimed his car at our group of friends and gunned it into us. I have two broken legs and need surgery. The police said I flew roughly 50 feet into a busy intersection. This is all so crazy.”
Ian Papa said he was inches away on the street when the gunman’s car sped up and struck two bicyclists.
“It happened so fast,” he said. “I had no time to react. I jumped on the sidewalk and I see a man on a BMW, his body inside the windshield and glass broken everywhere … I almost wanted to break into tears. It was a life and death situation.
Gunman talked to victims
The violence began and ended within minutes, from 9:27 p.m. when shots were reported to around 10 minutes later when police discovered the body of the suspected gunman, CNN affiliate KEYT-TV said. Authorities said there were nine separate crime scenes.
U.S. law enforcement officials said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and FBI were assisting local police in the investigation, including trying to trace the handgun used and where the suspect obtained it. Agents were on the scene to offer firearms expertise in tracing all details about the weapon using ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, according to the agency.
KEYT reporter John Palminteri told CNN that some witnesses reported hearing the gunman talk to some of his victims as he fired. Outside a 7-11 convenience store, he said, workers came out amid the gunfire to pull to safety a girl who had been shot in the leg.
‘No words to express the sadness’
In a statement on its website Saturday, UC Santa Barbara said several students were taken to local hospitals after the shooting.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those affected,” the statement said.
Santa Barbara City College also reacted Saturday.
“There are no words to express the sadness we have for the victims and their families and for all the residents of Isla Vista,” the statement said. “We know our students co-mingle with UCSB students and Isla Vista residents as part of our greater community and we all, as an extended family, are impacted by this unimaginable event.”
Elliot Rodger’s family also gave their condolences, spoken through their attorney: “The Rodger’s family offers their deepest compassion and sympathy to the families involved in this terrible tragedy. We are experiencing the most inconceivable pain and our hearts go out to everybody involved.”
By Ralph Ellis and Sara Sidner; CNN’s Sara Sidner and Alan Duke reported from Santa Barbara. Paul Vercammen reported from Isla Vista. Ralph Ellis reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter, Ray Sanchez , Joe Sutton, Joe Sterling, Michael Martinez and Evan Perez contributed to this report