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Thursday, July 11, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

UCSB Massacre Victims Turn to State Court

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Following a federal court dismissal, parents of victims killed during Elliot Rodger's mass shooting in Santa Barbara have refiled their claims in state court.

Rodger killed six University of California Santa Barbara students and injured 14 others in a May 23, 2014 killing spree in Isla Vista, near the college campus.

In a federal complaint this past March, the parents of Rodger's late roommates David Wang and James Hong and their friend George Chen sued Santa Barbara County, the apartment complex where Rodger lived and its manager.

U.S. District Judge John Walter dismissed Santa Barbara County and the sheriff's department from the case on Oct. 28 after finding the county did not violate the parents' constitutional rights under federal law.

Walter ruled the parents had not made clear that their due-process rights were violated because of an alleged failure to conduct a wellness check on Rodger. Authorities likewise did not act with deliberate indifference and their policies or practices did not cause the plaintiffs' injuries, the judge said.

The court dismissed the parents' remaining state-law claims but allowed them to refile the claims in the Santa Barbara County Court, which the parents did on Nov. 20.

Rodger stabbed his two roommates and a friend to death in their apartment, then shot and killed two women outside a sorority house and wounded a third. He drove to a delicatessen where he shot and killed a male student.

During the rampage, Rodger drove through Isla Vista in a black BMW, wounding several people with gunshots and hitting four others with his car. He then killed himself.

Keith Cheung was injured after Rodger hit him with the car.

Cheung filed a similar state court suit against Rodger's parents, the county, the sheriff and the university this past June, claiming they knew the 22-year-old Rodger was mentally ill but ignored several red flags, including disturbing videos he posted on YouTube.

A month before the shooting, Rodger posted several videos including one called "Why Do Girls Hate Me."

A document emailed to his parents, family and his therapist expressed Rodger's loneliness, alienation and intent to commit violence, according to court records.

Other incidents in the two years before the attack allegedly included racist and misogynistic content Rodger posted on websites and YouTube.

The plaintiffs in the case are Chen's father Junan Chen and mother Kelly Yao Wang; Wang's father Changshuang Wang and his mother Jinshuang Liu; and Wong's mother Lichu Chen, and father Wenquei Hong.

The remaining defendants in county court are Hi Desert Mobile Home Park and Asset Campus Housing. Asset Campus Housing is one of the largest student housing companies in America, while Hi Desert operates commercial student property in the Isla Vista area.

The parents are represented by Todd Becker of Becker Law Group in Long Beach, California.

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