Family of Santa Barbara Suspect Elliot Rodger Reported Him to Police, So Why Wasn't He Stopped?

It's not always this way. But with the armed killer who fatally shot and stabbed six near a university on Friday night, there were plenty of signs that something was amiss. Suspected Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger's family reported him to cops. They thought he could be dangerous, at least to himself. So why wasn't he stopped?

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff, Bill Brown, said on Sunday that cops who visited Rodger after his mother reported him were convinced that he wasn't a threat, according to The New York Times.

They found him to be apparently shy, timid, polite, well-spoken. He explained to the deputies that this was a misunderstanding. ...He was able to convince them that he was not at that point a danger to himself or anyone else.

How surprising is it that a well-off, well-educated, and privileged kid was able to convince deputies in a brief interview outside his apartment that he wasn't a threat? Say what you want about the influence of culture on Rodger's sick so-called "manifesto," but one of the most obvious failures in the wake of the Santa Barbara shooting is that it sounds like cops didn't have enough on Rodger to execute a search warrant, involuntarily commit him to a mental hospital, and ultimately confiscate his weapons, all of which were legally registered to him under his own name.

The biggest problem with the deputies' assessment is that people are fallible, there aren't many laws or procedures that help police out in these situations, and cops aren't psychologists. The law intentionally gives a terrifyingly wide berth to gun owners. It's not necessarily the deputies' fault for failing to spot problems in a short interview with Rodger; they were interviewing what police have called a "madman" who set out to deceive them. And tragically for the shooting and stabbing victims and their friends and family, after finding nothing to go on in the interview, the deputies couldn't do much more to stop him.

Spencer Weiner/Getty Images News/Getty Images

By the time the police came, yes, Rodger was well into planning his rampage. He had already written, for example, that "retribution is my sole purpose in this world, and I am ready." In fact he was on page 134 of the 141-page document by the time cops entered the picture. His mom had called them after seeing disturbing videos he posted on YouTube that clearly indicated something was wrong. He took the videos down, he wrote in a video description on the site.

I temporarily took all of my Vlog's down due to the alarm it caused with some people in my family.

That makes one wonder whether police had the chance to view the videos before they were removed from the site, or whether they knew at the time that Rodger had legally purchased and registered several weapons in his name. Cops haven't commented on that yet. In addition to interviewing him in response to his mother's concerns, police had interacted with him on prior occasions, and Rodger, who had Asperger's Syndrome, had received professional help.

Here's some of what Rodger wrote about the encounter:

As soon as I saw those cops, the biggest fear I had ever had in my life overcame me. I had the striking and devastating fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do, and reported me for it. 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. ... The police interrogated me outside for a few minutes, asking me if I had suicidal thoughts. I tactfully told them that it was all a misunderstanding, and they finally left.

At least one of the victims' parents has stood up and called for better gun control and mental health policies in the wake of the incident. Richard Martinez, father of the slain Christopher Martinez, said the following in a statement:

Our family has a message for every parent out there: You don't think it will happen to your child until it does.
Why did Chris die? 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? When will enough people say: 'Stop this madness?' We don't have to live like this. Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: Not one more.