Gloomy skies were mirrored by a grim mood Saturday morning on the streets of Isla Vista where a shooting the night before left seven people dead, including the gunman, and seven others injured. The alleged killer, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, fired on victims as he drove his black BMW through the downtown area of the seaside college town. Officials declared the attack premeditated, pointing to written and video evidence reportedly left by Rodger before his rampage.
The Santa Barbara Independent spoke to a number of eyewitnesses who shared their account of the tragic evening. Several said they initially thought the gunshots were fireworks. News spread fast through the streets — bolstered by social media — and several residents said they scrambled to contact friends to find out if they were safe.
Residents who live at 6701 Sabado Tarde were playing music and drinking beer in their front yard when they said they heard the shots. One of the residents, Nate Pepper, 24, said he saw Rodger’s black BMW drive 20-30 mph by his house. “It seemed like he was targeting individuals,” Pepper said. “The first guy he saw, he waited to shoot him.”
The victim — described as a male, around 5’10” with dark hair — ran toward the house and said, “I think I just got shot.” He had put up his arm to deflect the shots, Pepper said. The victim was reportedly hit three times in his left forearm and once in his left buttock. The group then rushed inside the house, turned off the lights, ducked down, and called 9-1-1, Pepper said. Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and told the victim to put pressure on his wounds, but they explained that they had to leave and attend to people with more severe injuries. The paramedics returned about a half an hour later and transported the victim to the hospital. “It seemed totally anonymous,” Pepper went on. “I asked [the victim] if he knew [the driver]. He said no; he was just walking down the street and he got shot.”
After that shooting, Rodger then reportedly turned down Sabado Tarde and drove straight toward a skateboarder. The skateboarder dove out of the way, but the car clipped him, Pepper said. The man also came inside Pepper’s house for help.
SBCC student Derrick Poe was working at Blaze Pizza when Rodger shot someone standing outside of Isla Vista Deli. “We saw a person on the floor, and a person looking over him,” Poe said. Video footage showed a black car pull up and stop for about 10 seconds. After the driver fired a number of shots, he slowly drove off, Poe said.
SBCC student Nina Benton, who lives on 6500 block of Sabado Tarde, also said she heard the gunshots. One bullet hit the trunk of her car. She said she was home by herself at the time and ran outside to see what was going on. She said she ducked behind a vehicle and saw Rodger speed to the end of the block. “It was really creepy,” she said. “Everyone is just freaked out and shaken up.”
A 7-Eleven clerk said a person was shot outside the store and that the night staff went outside and pulled the victim inside. She did not know the status of the victim.
Zach Barret, a UCSB junior from Portland, lives on the 6500 block of Del Playa Drive. “I got a call from a buddy at Pizza My Heart,” he said. “I went out on the balcony and saw [the suspect] driving on the block and heard at least two gunshots and then heard the car crash. … I heard some people crying, freaked out by the situation. I called everyone who I knew to make sure they were okay,” Barret said. “People were obviously shaken up.”
“I’m not interested in looking to this guy and memorializing these people,” Barret went on. “I’m not going to watch his video, I don’t think anyone else should either. It’s another stain on our community, even though its not a result of the people in it.”
Andy Krauss, 23, a cashier at Deja Vu Café and a UCSB graduate, was working last night as the situation unfolded. “There were more sirens than I’ve ever heard,” he said.
One young man, Sam, who was sitting at Starbucks on Saturday morning, recollected that some people seemed clueless to the whole incident. Others said they “weren’t going to let it ruin their night.”
Elena Sittler, 18, lives on campus but walked her friend home through Isla Vista last night about an hour after the shootings. She said the mood was “very grim” but said events like these “can randomly happen anywhere.” She noted the recent negative events that have plagued Isla Vista. “[It’s] not the best year.” But she’s noticed one thing since she’s been at UCSB and in the I.V. community: “The beauty in this community … [something like this] brings people together.”
There will be a vigil tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Storke Plaza.