In a heartbreaking interview aired Friday night, UCSB shooter Elliot Rodger's dad, Peter Rodger, talked to Barbara Walters about his son and how to prevent more mass shootings. Peter Rodger is clearly tortured by what happened on Friday, May 23, when his son fatally shot and stabbed six near the UC-Santa Barbara campus. When he watched the YouTube videos his son posted describing his plans, his father told Walters his feelings were dark:
I can only describe like a really dark force of horrible energy that hit me.
The family, along with Elliot Rodger's therapist, received copies of their son's "manifesto" the night of the shooting and headed toward campus to find him. Peter Rodger described that moment to Walters.
I just wanted to go and find him and talk to him. ... We were driving up there not knowing what to do.
Peter said he loved his son, and his son loved him — not to mentioned envied his looks and social success. From a young age Elliot Rodger's parents pushed him into therapy to help him deal with what they thought was run-of-the-mill shyness.
When we realized he had social issues, we brought therapists in. ... He was a very, very, very shy boy, and we just felt that that was his issue.
But there was much more happening underneath, which Elliot Rodger detailed in his sick manifesto before terrorizing his fellow students. His father says that every morning he wakes up in a "reverse nightmare situation," where he realizes what happened all over again. "I think about the victims and I think about what he did," he told Walters. "... I wish I could turn the clock back."
But the father loved his son, and when Walters asked, said he wasn't evil.
Elliot was far from evil; I think he became very mentally ill. What I don't get is we didn't see this coming at all.
Though Elliot has been reported to have Asperger's, his father said "he was never formally diagnosed." Still:
There was a certain OCD about him, there was a certain ... Elliot, really, was a very high-functioning human being. If he was sitting here right now, you would think he was the polite boy he was. And yet he had this thing hiding inside him.
But Peter Rodger repeatedly said his son was obviously mentally ill. When Walters brought up the topic of sex — Elliot was obsessed with women and having sex, but had never had it — his father said in the end, he didn't think actually having sex would have made a difference to the outcome.
He was always obsessive about this one issue (sex). I don't think (things would have been different if he had sex). I think he had a seriously advanced medical condition.
Ultimately, Peter Rodger said what happened with his son was the scariest things humans can endure.
This is the American horror story: When you have somebody who on the outside is one thing and on the inside is something completely different and you don't see it.