Police knew of California gunman's videos, but did not view them

Fri May 30, 2014 1:48pm EDT

A picture of Elliot Rodger is displayed during a news conference by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown (not shown) at Sheriff headquarters in Santa Barbara, California May 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Phil Klein

A picture of Elliot Rodger is displayed during a news conference by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown (not shown) at Sheriff headquarters in Santa Barbara, California May 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Klein

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(Reuters) - Police officers who visited Elliot Rodger just weeks before he went on a shooting rampage that left six dead and more than a dozen injured knew of disturbing videos he posted online, but did not check them, officials said on Thursday.

A new timeline released by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office shows police responded to a welfare check phoned in by a county mental health worker the night of April 30 and found a shy, timid but polite Rodger outside his apartment.

Four sheriffs' deputies, a University of California at Santa Barbara police officer and a dispatcher in training asked Rodger during the 10-minute encounter about the videos he had posted online, but he said they were simply a way of expressing himself as he was having trouble fitting in socially.

"Sheriff’s deputies concluded that Rodger was not an immediate threat to himself or others, and that they did not have cause to place him on an involuntary mental health hold, or to enter or search his residence," the sheriff's office said in the statement.

"Therefore, they did not view the videos or conduct a weapons check on Rodger."

A deputy called Rodger's mother and briefed her on the situation, then gave the phone to Rodger who told her everything was fine and that he would call her later, the statement said. The officers gave Rodger information on local support services and left.

"The sheriff’s office has determined that the deputies who responded handled the call in a professional manner consistent with state law and department policy," it added.

Typically only two deputies respond to mental welfare calls, but a few unassigned officers showed up due to their experience with Rodger in a petty theft case, the statement said.

Chris Pollard, 22, a neighbor of Rodger's interviewed by Reuters after the shootings, described watching the latter's videos, titled, "Spring break sucks when you're lonely," and "My reaction to seeing a couple at the beach...envy," and posted around that time. "It was a clear cry for help," said Pollard, adding that he had found the videos too disturbing to watch in their entirety.

But it was unlikely the police could have done more during their check, he said. "I mean, how far can you go without violating somebody's rights?" Pollard said. "When you looked at (Rodger), there was no reason to get concerned. He didn't seem like a threatening or intimidating guy. He was just very quiet."

The Sheriff's Office statement also gave new details of the night of the killings. The sheriff's office said authorities learned of the "Retribution" video and the 137-page manifesto roughly an hour after the shootings.

That video was uploaded to YouTube at 9:17 p.m. PST the night of the shootings, and Rodger emailed the manifesto to his parents, therapist and several others a minute later. The first gunshots were reported at 9:27 p.m., and the rampage had ended 20 minutes later.

The statement described the case as one of the most complex in the county's history, adding that the investigation was continuing. The sheriff's office said it would be making no further information available.

(Additional reporting by Dana Feldman,; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Comments (6)
gacha wrote:
It is called “racial profiling.”

“Come on, it’s just some little Asian kid.” “Yeah, and he’s a mommy’s boy too.” “He seemed sweet.” “Mother over-protective.” “Come on, this little guy is going to go on a kiling spree? Right.” “He seemed shy, did you notice that?” “Yeah, kind of quiet and withdrawn.” “It’s an Asian thing, man.” “Sich a soft voice.” “I mean, come on, this guy could barely hold a gun let alone shoot one.” “Hey, there’s a donut shop around the corner . . .” “That was easy, didn’t even have to go in the kid’s house.” “He was practically shaking, talk about shy.” “Sweet little guy. He’ll get a girlfriend and everything will be OK.”

May 30, 2014 10:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Art16 wrote:
I just love all the possible arguments for doing nothing. The authorities were either two dumb or too lazy to pursue the evidence of people’s concerns. The person was already immune to his own conscience when he hatched his plan, gathered all the weapons he wanted, and then went off calmly killing people, like a machine. He had no soul. It is a tragedy that this happened, but there is the possibility this would have happened eventually, or something like it, down the road, anyway.

May 30, 2014 2:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
european-view wrote:
I agree with Art16 and gacha and want to add a few things as a non-American who has also lived in California.

I find it a clear failure of the system / society all round that he slipped through the net. He had been in therapy on and off since he was 9. A mental health professional described him as obviously “very, very mentally disturbed.” Yet he was able to legally purchase two semi-automatic weapons?! What kind of stupid society allows that? Why no cross checking about whether he owned a gun, since he was in therapy for so many years. The opportunity was staring mental health professional who dealt with him, right in the face, to know that and ring an alarm bell. Is it privacy laws that prevent that big picture from being formed of people in therapy, known to be mentally ill?

It’s incredible to me that he was so out in the open yet nothing was done. It’s not like he was a reclusive nut case living in the woods on the edge of a small town, anti-social and removed from society and therefore undetectable, who one day went on a rampage. The videos were akin to an ominous warning bell.

Ok, here’s more big picture stuff: Why does the right to bear arms even include automatic weapons, semi or not? What on earth would any person in a democratic society in peacetime want two automatic weapons for, except to massacre people? They are not hunting rifles. They are not small ‘pieces’ you put in your pocket in case you get mugged and need to defend yourself. Here in Europe we are incredulous that you even have these weapons for sale. It is not normal or healthy. It has nothing to do with ‘rights’ It is the sign of a profoundly sick society.

And if all of that can occur with no red flags raised, why don’t police have better training and procedures in place? Not as if there isn’t a lot of violent crime going on to warrant the precautionary principle being applied. IE it should be mandatory to search the house of a kid that has all of this going on. AND to watch the videos.
Period.

I am not involved in law enforcement, but if you read the profiles of people who commit mass killings, a fair proportion of them are introverted or appear to be, and are deft at covering their motives and intentions with polite and socially acceptable behaviour when it is required. The combination of his being ultra polite and shy plus the videos should have been enough.

Epic fail, on so many levels. And since none of the things I mentioned are likely to change, the massacres are likely to keep happening.

And that’s the worst of it. .

May 30, 2014 4:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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