California killer’s parents frantically searched for son during shooting

Posted at 11:05 AM, May 25, 2014

By Pamela Brown, CNN Justice Correspondent

SANTA BARBARA, California (CNN) — As Elliot Rodger was carrying out a deadly rampage Friday night around Santa Barbara, his parents were frantically trying to find him, having just received a chilling manifesto from their son.

Rodger, 22, sent a couple dozen people — including his parents and at least one of his therapists — the 140-page document via e-mail not long before the shootings began, Simon Astaire, a family friend, told CNN.

The manifesto is a lengthy chronicle detailing Rodger’s frustrations with his height, his parents’ divorce and rejection by women. It was obtained by the media on Saturday, but it was not known then that his family had seen the document before the rampage.

Rodger’s mother, Lichin, who saw the e-mail at 9:17 p.m. PT, immediately went to Rodger’s YouTube page, where he had been known to post alarming rants. According to Astaire, that’s when Rodger’s mother saw her son’s latest video, called “Retribution,” that he posted Friday, the day of the shootings.

In the video, Rodger outlined his plan of “slaughtering” women at a sorority house at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

His mother called Rodger’s father, Peter, and said he had to watch the YouTube video. At the time, Peter Rodger had not yet seen the manifesto. Lichin Rodger called 911, and the parents set off for Santa Barbara from Los Angeles, according to Astaire. En route, they heard there was a shooting. Later that night, they found out their son was behind the violence.

Authorities say the killing rampage left six victims dead and 13 injured. It ended when Rodger slammed into a parked vehicle and apparently shot himself in the head, police said.

There had been warning signs that Rodgers was struggling with mental health.

His mother came across his YouTube videos in April after she hadn’t heard from Rodger in a few days, Astaire said. She called one of his therapists, who then called a Santa Barbara mental health hotline. A woman on the hotline called police to check on him, Astaire said.

Six policemen showed up at his house in Isla Vista on April 30, but they found nothing alarming, so they told Rodger to call his mother and they reassured her that he was OK, according to Astaire. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters Saturday that at the time, deputies “determined he did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold.”

Looking back, Rodger’s parents now feel that the well-being check in April by police was a “pivotal moment,” and his parents are frustrated, Astaire said. He described it as a “missed opportunity” to really find out what was going on with Rodger, but his parents admit that hindsight is always easy, Astaire said.

In fact, Elliot Rodger himself wrote in the manifesto that he worried that someone had discovered his plan when the police visited.

“I had the striking and devastating fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do, and reported me for it,” he wrote. “If that was the case, the police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can’t imagine a hell darker than that.”

He continued: “If they had demanded to search my room … That would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over. When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me.”

Brown told reporters that Rodger suffered from an undisclosed mental health issue and was under the care of a variety of health care professionals.

On Sunday, the sheriff defended the April welfare check, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley” that getting involved in mental health cases is a “delicate balance.”

“You want to certainly intervene and obviously try to prevent a tragedy such as we’ve experienced here. On the same token, you don’t want to stigmatize people who are seeking treatment for mental illness and you don’t want to prevent them from doing so because of the potential stigma that’s attached,” he said. “It’s a double-edged sword in some respects.”

Rodger had been seeing therapists on and off since he was 8, according to Astaire. He went to high school in Van Nuys, California, and met with a therapist “pretty much every day,” Astaire said.

Before his death, Rodger was seeing two therapists, Astaire added. “(Rodger) has always been going to see someone,” he said, describing him as “reserved to a daunting degree.”

But Astaire said Rodger didn’t seem to have violent tendencies.

In fact, there was no recent indication Rodger was growing increasingly distant or that his condition was deteriorating, Astaire added. Rodger’s father said a week ago that Rodger seemed to be doing well “at the moment.” On Thursday, he spoke to his father and said he was looking forward to seeing his family this weekend.

Astaire told CNN that Rodger never expressed any fascination with guns.

“Guns were never part of the dialogue,” he said.

Inside Rodger’s car Friday night police found three handguns — all legally purchased — and more than 400 rounds of unused ammunition.

Rodger passed the background check needed to buy the firearm used in the shooting, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told CNN. The official said nothing had been found in the gun trace to indicate Rodger should have been disqualified.

Astaire also mentioned a feud that Rodger had had recently with his roommates, saying Rodger complained to his landlord that his roommates were too noisy and played lots of video games. Rodger suggested they move out but was told that couldn’t happen.

“(His parents) were conscious and concerned about their son’s health,” Astaire said. “They thought he was in good hands.”

But “in a moment of indescribable grief,” he said, they are “of course asking themselves, ‘Did we do as much as we can do?'”

CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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