Eight months after Elliot Rodger’s mass murder in Isla Vista, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office released a highly anticipated report that recaps hundreds of investigative documents on the six homicides, 14 attempted murders, and one suicide that took place on May 23, 2014, in the small college town adjacent to UCSB.
Rodger acted alone, the report found, when he stabbed three UCSB students to death in his apartment several hours before he drove through Isla Vista’s streets, fatally shooting three UCSB students and injuring 14 more victims.
Rodger had planned the attack for more than a year and spent thousands of dollars on guns and ammunition. The investigation dug into Rodger’s history of mental illness, his inability to make friends, and his disdain for women. It also examined his interest in Nazis and Internet searches on torture devices.
Reports of the crimes first came into dispatch after about 9:27 p.m. on May 23, when Rodger headed to Alpha Phi’s sorority house where he aggressively pounded on the locked front door for three minutes. No one answered, so Rodger targeted three people walking down Embarcadero Del Mar, shooting sorority sisters Veronica Weiss, 19, and Katherine Cooper, 22.
The third shooting victim was heard screaming, “I’m going to die! I’m going to die!” as she lay on the sidewalk and called her mother on her cell phone. A deputy responding to the sound of gunfire applied pressure to her wounds, and a witness took over first aid as the deputy ran to assist his partners in their pursuit of Rodgers. The witness told the victim’s mother over the phone that her daughter was going to survive.
Rodger’s final shooting victim was Christopher Michaels-Martinez, who was standing in front of nearby I.V. Deli Mart as several frightened people scurried to get inside. Michaels-Martinez was struck by gunfire as he turned to look toward Rodger’s approaching car. He quickly entered the market and fell to the ground. Rodger continued to fire numerous gunshots into the store; two broke through the window.
Rodger continued to snake through the streets in his BMW, randomly shooting at people and intentionally running into them. After eight hectic minutes, Rodger and deputies running out of Little Acorn Park toward his car engaged in a brief gunfight; Rodger was wounded in the left hip. He shot himself just before he crashed into another vehicle and came to a stop on Del Playa Drive.
The Stabbing Victims
Questions about the three men Rodger stabbed to death inside his apartment several hours before the shootings have lingered in the months following the incident. Initially, it was thought that Rodger had drugged his roommates, but toxicology tests found no drugs in their bodies.
Using 6- and 8-inch fixed-blade “SRK” and “Boar Hunter” hunting knives, Rodger brutally stabbed his two roommates and their friend multiple times as they entered the apartment.
Weihan Wang, 20, was attacked first and stabbed 15 times. Wounds on his hands and arms indicate he tried to defend himself. Next, Rodger murdered 20-year-old Cheng Hong by stabbing him 25 times. He also had defensive wounds on his hands and arms. Deputies found the bodies of Wang and Hong lying face down covered in blankets in their bedroom. It appeared Rodger had dragged them into the bedroom after stabbing them.
Lastly, Rodger stabbed 19-year-old George Chen 94 times. He also apparently fought back. Detectives found his body in the bathroom in a pool of blood.
The apartment’s front hallway walls appeared to have been cleaned of blood, and a large bath towel and several paper towels strewn nearby were soaked in blood. Authorities theorized that Rodger tried to hide evidence of the prior stabbings from the subsequent victims as he ambushed them one by one.
Detectives found Rodger’s room in disarray, with his laptop open to a YouTube page indicating he had just uploaded the video “Retribution,” which described his intentions to brutally attack his victims and went viral in the hours after news of the incident spread.
Detectives believe Rodger practiced stabbing on his bed sheets and pillows because they had slashes and stab marks on them. A long-sleeve shirt and jeans caked in dry blood were tangled in the sheets.
Monster energy drinks, lottery tickets, the Art of Seduction, video games (World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Halo), and a Starbucks coffee cup were scattered throughout his room. Weapons without blood on them in his room included a folding knife, a “zombie killer” knife with a 10-inch blade, a machete with an 18-inch blade, a hammer, a knife box, and empty boxes of ammunition. A hand drawing of someone being stabbed and a printed copy of Rodger’s 137-page manifesto — which he emailed to several people just minutes before embarking on the shootings — were also in the room.
A handwritten journal open to a page dated May 23, 2014, read: “I had to tear some pages out because I feared my intentions would be discovered. I taped them back together as fast as I could. This is it. In one hour I will have my revenge on this cruel world. I HATE YOU ALLLL! DIE.”
Rodger’s iPhone had 492 images and videos on it, 200 of which were self-portraits. None were related to the murders, though some were quite disturbing. One was a short clip of blood dripping into a bathroom sink; it was thought to be a film of Rodger with a bloody nose. Another showed trash and Rodger complaining about his roommate being lazy. And another video depicted Rodger enraged and crying because two women ignored him after he said hi to them. He said he hated his life.
Rodger’s Internet history revealed that he had made numerous Nazi-related searches, including “Did Adolf Hitler have a girlfriend” and “Nazi anime.” Others included “quick silent kill with a knife,” “how to kill someone with a knife,” “Xingjian railway station terrorist knife attack explosion bombing,” “roommate takes very long showers,” “modern torture devices,” “shooting range Los Angeles,” and “Racism against Asian.”
On the day of his suicide, Rodger searched for pornography. The days before, he accessed anxietyzone.com and bodybuilding.com. He often posted online messages, including this comment on the site puahate.com: “You’re all jealous of my 10/10 pretty-boy face This site is full of stupid, disgusting, mentally ill degenerates who take pleasure in putting down others. That is all I have to say on here. Goodbye.”
According to his manifesto, Rodger began purchasing weapons in June 2013. At first he didn’t know if he would attack SBCC or Isla Vista. A librarian at SBCC said she assisted a person believed to be Rodger locate books on serial killers and mass murder.
Mental Health History
Rodger was never hospitalized due to mental illness, but the Sheriff’s report indicates he suffered from a number of mental health issues throughout his childhood, and he received treatment up to his death. He had reportedly considered suicide but had no prior history of aggression. As a child, he cried in crowds and preferred to write information down rather than speak. He displayed some repetitive behaviors such as tapping his feet or leg or making noises.
At age 15, he was prescribed Xanax and Prozac. A year later, he stopped taking the medications regularly. He also took Paxil as needed, for instance if he was going to a party. In a journal entry, Rodger wrote that the pills made him feel too drowsy and tired so he would “have to rely entirely on my mind and positive thinking” to overcome his shyness.
Rodger struggled with anger, jealousy, and basic social skills, and he sought help from three counselors in Santa Barbara; he attended 29 sessions between May 2013 and May 2014. He also met with his Los Angeles-based life coach Gavin Linderman, who was the one to warn Rodger’s mother about the manifesto and email sent out the night of the mass murders.
The report states it was recommended that Rodger enter a residential treatment facility with daily therapy because he had great difficulty integrating with his peers and he showed anger toward couples. In the months before the shooting, Rodger was taking Xanax; he said he could cope with anxiety after taking it.
According to Sheriff Bill Brown, studies show the annual rate of active or mass shootings in public places is trending upward; there were 160 in the United States between 2000 and 2013. “Sadly, terrible crimes such as this occur far too frequently,” Brown said in a letter attached to the report. “In the aftermath of such senseless tragedies, the question always asked is, ‘What can be done to save lives by preventing similar crimes in the future?’” he wrote. “Unfortunately, there is no single or simple solution to the complex problems that lie beneath that question.”