California rampage called 'work of a madman'

| Saturday, May 24, 2014, 11:03 p.m.

The streets in a California college town famous for its party atmosphere turned into scenes of carnage on Friday night when a student went on a rampage that mirrored threats made in a YouTube video. The so-called “madman” stabbed three people to death in his apartment, then went on a shooting spree in his car, killing three and injuring seven either by gunfire or by hitting them with his black BMW.

Peter Rodger, one of the assistant directors on “The Hunger Games,” issued a statement saying it was his son, Elliot, who was the lone gunman found dead behind the wheel of the BMW that crashed into a parked car, ending the eruption of violence in Isla Vista, a sun-kissed beach community that hugs the University of California, Santa Barbara. Late Saturday, authorities confirmed that the gunman — who fired for 10 minutes in streets filled with university students walking, biking and skateboarding — was Elliot Rodger.

Investigators were analyzing a YouTube video in which Elliot Rodger sits in a car and looks into the camera, outlining his plans for violent revenge because he allegedly had been rejected by women. In the nearly seven-minute-long video that YouTube has subsequently taken down, Rodger vows to enter the “hottest sorority” at the university and “slaughter every single spoiled stuck-up blond slut I see inside there.” He complains that college has been a “torturous” experience for him and says at the age of 22 he has never kissed a girl and was a virgin. At times, he laughs maniacally like a movie villain.

“It's obviously the work of a madman,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference.

Alan Shifman, a lawyer who represents Peter Rodger, said family members contacted police several weeks ago because they were alarmed by YouTube videos “regarding suicide and the killing of people” that Rodger's son had been posting.

Brown said investigators were “analyzing both written and videotaped evidence that suggests this atrocity was a premeditated mass murder.”

Police interviewed Elliot Rodger last month and found him to be a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human,” according to Shifman. Police did not find a history of guns, but did say Rodger “didn't have a lot of friends,” had trouble making friends and didn't have any girlfriends.

The family is staunchly against guns, Shifman said. But Elliot had three legally purchased handguns registered to him, the sheriff said, and 41 loaded magazines.

“The Rodger 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,” said Peter Rodger in a statement read by Shifman.

Richard Martinez said his son Christopher, 20, was killed in the shooting.

“You don't think it'll happen to your child until it does,” he told reporters.

Martinez choked back tears as he spoke.

He grew angry as he talked about gun laws and lobbyists.

“The talk about gun rights. What about Chris' right to live?” Martinez said. “When will enough people say: ‘Stop this madness! We don't have to live like this! Too many people have died!' ”

Investigators were studying nine separate, “very chaotic” crime scenes. Police tape crisscrossed Isla Vista streets, and blood was visible on the asphalt. A pile of flowers grew on Saturday where two sorority members were killed on the lawn of Alpha Phi, as weeping students wandered up to the spot, shook their heads and hugged each other.

Police received the first report of gunfire at 9:27 p.m.

Sheriff's deputies on duty in Isla Vista heard the gunshots.

One witness said the gunman fired from his car.

“He slowed down and drove by the store and shot into the store and drove away,” said Michael Hassan, 33, owner of I.V. Deli Mart. He said six or seven shots came through the deli's glass windows. “A customer is dead. ... You never hear of drive-by shootings in Santa Barbara.”

Cayla Bergman, 19, a sophomore who was working in a pizza restaurant, said it had been a typical Friday night until she heard “booms.”

“I hear a lot of fireworks go off, so I didn't process it at the time, until everyone ran into the store and said, ‘Someone got shot! Someone got shot!' It was really scary,” Bergman said.

Six minutes after the first report of gunfire, deputies and the suspect exchanged gunfire.

“There's no question in my mind at this point that their resolute actions and valor in doing so very well may have prevented further loss of life and injury,” Brown said of his deputies.

Rodger, a student at Santa Barbara City College, was found dead with a gunshot to his head and a semiautomatic handgun close at hand. Authorities said he apparently committed suicide.

Seven victims remain hospitalized with serious injuries.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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