Parents Say Massacre Was Preventable | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Parents Say Massacre Was Preventable

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Parents of three young men killed in a murderous rampage that left six dead in Santa Barbara County claim that the apartment complex where the killer lived and the Sheriff's Department could have prevented the massacre by running a background check on Elliot Rodger.

Junan Chen and Kelly Yao Wang sued Santa Barbara County, its Sheriff's Office, Capri Apartments at Isla Vista and Asset Campus Housing in Federal Court on Monday on behalf of their late son, George Chen.

Joining as plaintiffs are Changshuang Wang and Jinshuang Liu, suing on behalf of their late son Weihan "David" Wang; and Lichu Chen and Wenquei Hong, suing on behalf of their late son, Chen-Yuang "James" Hong.

On the evening of May 23, 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger stabbed to death his two roommates, Hong and Wang, and their visiting friend, Chen, "with knives and other weapons in their apartment," the complaint states.

Rodger then emailed a copy of his 137-page manifesto, "My Twisted Life," to his therapist and parents, and went on a rampage that claimed the lives of 6 people and wounded 14 others.

Among other things, the rambling manifesto blames Rodger's self-described "pathetic, miserable life" on women who rejected his advances and the men they had sex with instead.

Rodger's next victims were Veronika Weiss and Katie Cooper, who were walking back to their sorority house at the University of California at Santa Barbara. They were 19 and 22 respectively.

A third student, 20-year-old Bianca de Kock, survived the shooting and later told ABC News that Rodger had a "smirky, grimacy smile" on his face and "looked happy" when he shot her and her friends.

After fatally shooting another UCSB student, Christopher Michael-Martinez, at a Deli Mart, Rodger drove around town shooting at people on the sidewalk, including sheriff's deputies responding to the shootings. He struck two bicyclists with his car before he hit another vehicle, ending his rampage. When deputies arrived at the crash, they found Rodger dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The slain roommates' parents say Rodger's violent tendencies surfaced soon after he came to Isla Vista in June 2011 and moved into the Capri Apartments to attend the summer session at Santa Barbara City College.

He provoked a fight with two Hispanic male roommates by telling them he was superior to them, and in a jealous rage insulted another roommate who had brought home a girlfriend by telling him he was "foolish for being proud for having 'an ugly whore' in his room," the complaint states.

In November 2012, Rodger "became serious about executing the 'Day of Retribution,' an event he had been planning since his arrival in Santa Barbara in which Rodger planned to massacre young people in the streets of Isla Vista to get 'revenge' on them. In his own words: 'It would be a day in which I exact my ultimate retribution and revenge on all of the hedonistic scum who enjoyed lives of pleasure that they don't deserve. If I can't have it, I will destroy it. I will destroy all women because I can never have them. I will make them all suffer for rejecting me. I will arm myself with deadly weapons and wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to. And I will slaughter them like the animals they are," the complaint states, citing Rodger's manifesto.


Five months later, Rodger began posting "hateful, angry, deeply misogynistic and racist material under his own name on various websites ... and his own YouTube channel, where he posted videos of himself ranting in angry and threatening ways," according to the complaint.

The roommates' parents say these diatribes were easy to find on Google using a search of Rodger's name.

A few months later, he attended a party where he tried to push three girls off a ledge because he thought they had snubbed him. Several male students intervened and pushed Rodger off the ledge instead, and he broke his ankle. When he got back home, he told a neighbor "I'm gonna kill all those motherf***kers and kill myself," according to the complaint. (Asterisks in original.)

Sheriffs deputies followed up on the incident and interviewed several people. Though the deputies were told that Rodger had started the fight and "targeted women," the officers let the matter drop, the complaint states.

Rodger returned to Capri Apartments after ankle surgery and recuperation at his parents' house, and Capri assigned James Hong and David Wang as his roommates despite knowing about his "bizarre behavior" and the threat he posed to their safety, the young men's parents say.

"Capri failed to conduct any kind of reasonable background check or reasonable investigation of Rodger's online postings to ensure that he was an appropriate and safe roommate before assigning him to Hong and Wang. Finally, Capri failed to warn Hong and Wang that Rodger had had serious conflicts with his previous roommates and was not only racist but also potentially violent and dangerous," the complaint states.

Soon after Hong and Wang moved in, Rodger started hiding their pots and pans because he hated the way their cooking smelled. When Hong took some of Rodger's candles to force Rodger to give back his property, Rodger called the Sheriff's Department and officers arrested Hong rather than Rodger, according to the complaint.

In April 2014, a mental health worker saw a new batch of racist, sexist videos on Rodger's YouTube channel and alerted the Sheriffs Department, which sent officers to his apartment for a "wellness check," according to the lawsuit.

But department personnel "recklessly" failed to watch the videos, read Rodger's online posts or do a background check on him before the wellness check, and the officers who spoke with him never asked to search his room, the complaint states.

"This failure on the part of the SBCSD emboldened Rodger and caused him to adapt and expand his plans of violence creating greater danger than existed previously," the complaint adds.

Rodger wrote in his manifesto that he was relieved the officers did not come inside because if they had searched his room, everything would have been over, according to the complaint.

None of the defendants replied to requests for comment Tuesday.

The parents seek compensatory and general damages for due process violations, negligence and "past, present and future psychological, emotional and physical pain, suffering, distress and injury."

They also want medical and other expenses. [prayer 2]

They are represented by Patrick McNicholas with McNicholas and McNicholas of Los Angeles and Todd Becker of Long Beach.

An investigative report released in February by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department indicated that Rodger suffered from severe social anxiety all his life and was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2007.

Though his anxiety and frustration toward young couples grew despite therapy and medication, he "was never hospitalized due to mental illness, or placed on a mental health hold (voluntary or involuntary)," the report states.

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