Santa Barbara Mass Murder Could Have Been Prevented

25 May




After reading some of the disturbed thoughts of Elliot Rodger, some obvious questions come to mind. If Rodger was so obsessed with having a girlfriend, for example, why didn’t he join an online dating service rather than an online gripe session for “undateable” men?

Unfortunately, such simple questions, even if answered, do nothing to explain the unthinkable act of taking six innocent lives in a premeditated binge of random vengeance. Rodger’s 140 page manifesto, My Twisted World, exposes the 22-year-old killer’s deranged mind and lack of logical thinking.

After simple questions, more complex ones come to mind like, why didn’t Rodger’s family do more after viewing his ominous videos on YouTube? They were so disturbed by the videos, which showed their son discussing suicide and murder, that they called police who conducted a wellness check on April 30. However, according to Fox News, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said deputies reported that Rodger was shy, polite and having a difficult social life. He convinced officers that the videos he posted on YouTube (which police apparently had not viewed) were just a misunderstanding.

Actually, while duping police, Rodger worried that his depraved plans would be thwarted if the deputies searched his room. “That would have ended everything,” he wrote in My Twisted World. “For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over.” and

Elliot Rodger’s parents did the right thing when they called the police. But law enforcement gets lots of similar calls and may not be adequately staffed or trained to deal with complex mental health issues. Evidently, officers did not see the videos and were unable to decipher the extent of Rodger’s illness. My guess is that they did their best and made an honest mistake. Yet, Rodger’s parents had seen the videos, they knew something was wrong with their son and they were extremely alarmed.

So, why didn’t family members persist with their pleas for help? Why didn’t they demand that detectives view the upsetting videos? Why didn’t they call their son’s friends or roommates? Why didn’t they take their concerns to the mental health department or a private psychologist or psychiatrist? Why didn’t they have their son locked up in a 5150* because he was a danger to himself and others?
*Section 5150 is a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code which allows a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person who is a danger to himself or others.

Elliot Rodger’s wellness check was conducted on April 30, almost a month before his killing spree of May 23. That’s more than enough time to do something. That’s more than enough time to prevent mass murder. It would have taken only one family member to persevere, one neighbor or one roommate. (Rodger’s two roommates and their friend were the first victims of his killing spree.)

The public has the right to be protected from people like Elliot Rodger and all of us are responsible to do the right thing with the information we have. And sometimes that takes perseverance. Why didn’t Rodger’s family persevere until their son got the help he needed and they had peace of mind that he was not a threat to others? These are questions that will probably haunt the Rodger family and I don’t wish that on anyone. But, it seems that the only way to prevent similar tragedies in the future is for those who know something to do something.

I don’t believe the answer is just gun control. Remember that Rodger used his BMW as a weapon to mow down bicyclists during his deadly rampage.  He also stabbed to death his two roommates and their friend. And Rodger was raised in a family that is “staunchly against guns,” according to family attorney Alan Shifman. Perhaps their knowledge of Rodger’s upbringing lulled family members into believing that Rodger would never use a gun, obtain one or act out violently.

This tragic incident brings to mind the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard who was kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Dugard was held for more than 18 years at the couple’s California home in backyard tents. Neighbors called police to report the unusual living arrangement of Jaycee and her two daughters who were fathered by Garrido. Police went to the house but left before searching the backyard, which they may have been reluctant to do without a search warrant.

Why didn’t the neighbors call police again or even go to the media with their strange story? There were plenty of other missed opportunities. Phillip Garrido was a convicted, registered sex offender who was monitored, to an extent. Yet, even parole officers failed to thoroughly search his backyard during routine inspections.

But then there were two people who went the extra mile. UC Berkeley Police Officer Ally Jacobs was alerted to Garrido by staff member Lisa Campbell, who was alarmed by a bizarre on campus encounter she had with Garrido and his two young daughters. The perseverance of these two women led to Dugard’s freedom after 18 long years and the capture of her tormentors.

It only takes one person to ask that extra question or make that extra phone call. It only takes one person to care enough to do enough. And that one person could be any of us.

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