Who Was Elliot Rodger, the Santa Barbara Shooter?
Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and himself in and around UC Santa Barbara Friday night, was almost stopped before he began. For months before his rampage, the 22-year-old had posted videos and comments online threatening harm to others and himself. Fearing the worst, his family asked police to do a welfare check, but deputies found nothing sufficient to hold him in a mental ward. "He was articulate. He was polite," said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. "He was timid."
But he was hiding something. "If they had demanded to search my room," Rodger wrote later, "that would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over."
An on-and-off student at Santa Barbara City College, Rodger was the affluent son of Peter Rodger, an assistant director for The Hunger Games . Although he was born in London, his family moved to Los Angeles when he was five years old so his father could pursue a career in Hollywood. Soon after, his parents divorced and his father remarried – a change in circumstances to which he never quite seemed to adapt. According to an attorney for the family, Rodger was at some point diagnosed with an extremely high-achieving form of Asperger's, and he struggled to fit in during middle and high school.
There is no known link between Asperger's and violence, and Rodger's eventual actions should not be blamed on his diagnosis. However, a hallmark of the condition is difficulty in social situations – a strong theme of Rodger's angst. In a 140-page autobiographical document, Rodgers wrote about his resentment of men with girlfriends. "Males who can easily find female mates garner more respect from their fellow men, even children," he wrote. "How ironic is it that my father, one of those men who could easily find a girlfriend, has a son who would struggle all his life to find a girlfriend."
His family was aware that something was going on, even after he moved to Santa Barbara for college. He had reportedly seen multiple therapists even before the police check-in, which his family requested after seeing threatening videos Rodger had posted online. But by then, Rodger's slow-burning plan was already in motion. His plot for a "Day of Retribution" against those he felt had slighted him took more than a year to put together. Although police at the time of the house visit found no history of guns, he had bought and registered at least two by that point.
"I’ll be a god exacting my retribution on all those who deserve it," Rodger said in one of his videos, which went online some time before the attack (it has since been taken down by YouTube). "And you do deserve it, just for the crime of living a better life than me. All you popular kids. You’ve never accepted me, and now you’ll all pay for it."