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Santa Barbara Rampage

Aired May 25, 2014 - 07:00   ET


JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: New York City nice though, temperatures in the mid-80s, and sunshine. The east is going to be warm. It is going to feel very nice.

Boston, you'll be at 81 on Memorial Day with dry conditions, as well as Miami. Could see some storms in Minneapolis, as well as Austin. Seattle, could you also see a couple of those showers as well.

Also a couple other cities to check in with, Dallas, we're going to see a little bit of rain for you. Again those Texas storms, St. Louis, a few showers, 87 degrees. D.C. looking nice, 87 your high temperature on Memorial Day, lots of sunshine.

So, lot of the country will be experiencing some very nice conditions, could see some storms in the plains and across south Texas as well.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Those are some of the latest images we're getting there. We're so grateful for your company this morning. I'm Christi Paul. Thanks for being here.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Now, 7:00 on the East Coast, 4:00 out West.


And we're starting this hour with as you saw the California college town in mourning after as he's been called a madman, he went on this rampage, killing six members of the community, before taking his own life.

PAUL: And, of course, we know the shooter's identity, 22-year- old Elliot Rodger. There he is. The young man described a lifetime of rejection by women and sexual frustration in this 141-page manifesto and left behind a lengthy YouTube video detailing his plan to attack.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, understandably, the Santa Barbara community is united in anguish. Last night, thousands of students and residents came together, this is a candlelight vigil and they walked through the streets of Isla Vista. PAUL: Some of the deepest pain I think felt by the people who lost those they loved Friday night.


RICHARD MARTINEZ, VICTIM'S FATHER: Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris' right to live?


BLACKWELL: That was the father of this man, Christopher Martinez. Martinez was just 20 years old. He was shot inside that I.V. Deli on Friday night.

PAUL: And take a look here of Veronica Weiss, the 19-year-old shot by Rodger while standing outside the sorority house. Her friends remember her as beautiful and as you can see, always smiling.

Sara Sidner has been following the story that unfolded Friday night.

BLACKWELL: She joins us live from Isla Vista.

Sara, I cannot imagine what this community is going through this morning and how they're trying to start this process of healing.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Victor, you can see what they're doing to try and deal with this and try to start that process of healing. I'm standing outside of the I.V. Deli Mart where you just mentioned Christopher Ross-Martinez was gunned down. He was a 20-year-old student. His father says he was doing so well in school. He had just come in here to grab something to eat and was gunned down by a suspect on a shooting rampage.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police say this is where the sinister plan of a disturbed student began to unfold. Three people all stabbed to death are taken from the apartment of 22-year- old Elliot Rodger and then police say Rodger turned his rage on strangers, carrying out a chilling plan he detailed on YouTube.

ELLIOT RODGER, SUSPECT: On the day of retribution, I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoiled stuck-up blond (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I see inside there.

SIDNER: Police say Rodger pounded on the door but never made it inside the sorority. Instead, he began gunning people down outside. When we arrived, blood and flowers marked the spot where three young women were shot, two killed.

(on camera): So, you're there at the fraternity.


SIDNER: You're just down the street and you come around the corner after hearing gunshots and what'd you see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So, I came up and basically there was a young girl laying right here, and she was, I could just tell immediately that she was gone. I saw a gash on her abdomen, like on her side and also one through her head. So you could tell she wasn't bleeding anymore, so that she was gone.

There was another girl right here.

SIDNER: My God, there were more than one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's three girls, yes.

SIDNER: Three girls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a right there and she was really, really struggling. You could tell she was just barely able to move her eyes and just moving her arms slightly, and then there was another girl right here, and she was kind of laying down crouched.

She was still conscious. She was talking. She immediately got on the phone with her mother, and was telling her mother about how much she loved her and she wasn't sure that she was going to make it. And then, it probably took about a minute or two and the one right here passed away.

SIDNER (voice-over): The third victim there survived, but the drive-by shooting spree continued, snatching away life with reckless abandon, leading families in searing emotional pain.

MARTINEZ: He was the most warm, loving, kind-hearted kid you could ask for. I mean, it's just -- you talk to people that knew him, they would tell you, just a great kid. He had a beautiful soul. He was kind and thoughtful.

SIDNER: His son, 20-year-old student Christopher Ross-Martinez, just wanted to grab a bite to eat at this market. He lost his life instead. He, along with five other innocents, are dead. Police say all victims of a young man with a deadly plan -- guns, a fast car, and plenty of ammunition.


BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Sara Sidner, who's there in Isla Vista.

We have with us now, HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks joining us in studio.

And the three of us, we're going to have a conversation now with the sheriff there, Bill Brown, with Santa Barbara sheriff's office.

Sir, thank you for spending some time with us. I know you have a lot of work to do, but very quickly, can you tell us what's the latest on the investigation here?

BILL BROWN, SANTA BARBARA SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Well, Victor, the situation is that we're wrapping up the investigation. We're finalizing the identification and notification of the next of kin of the three remaining victims who were fatally injured and as soon as that's finished, we'll update the media with their identities and school affiliations and what have you, and then it's really just a matter of putting it all together in terms of the investigative report and making sure that we have a complete picture of exactly what happened.

So, it's going to go on obviously for weeks, until we finalize it, but in terms of the heavy lifting at the beginning of the investigation, the evidence processing, the interviewing, all of that, is for the most part finished although we'll continue periodically for the next couple of weeks with that endeavor.

PAUL: Sheriff, do you know, one of the things we haven't heard a lot about are the three men that were in that apartment. Do you know how, what they were doing there, and how he was able to overpower three other men and stab them repeatedly to death?

BROWN: Well, we don't know at this point completely, other than there's some indications in his manifesto he talked about killing his roommates while they slept, and also talked about luring as many people as possible into his apartment and killing them prior to going out and enacting the second and third phases of his planned rampage, which resulted in the targeting of a sorority and the ultimate driving around Isla Vista and randomly shooting people. What we've seen thus far is consistent with at least some of what he documented in this manifesto.

BLACKWELL: Do you know if he knew these three men personally?

BROWN: I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

BLACKWELL: Do you know if he threw the three men found dead inside his home personally?

BROWN: Yes, I really can't comment on that until we are finished with the identification of those people.


MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sheriff, the three guns that were found. Do we know when and where they were purchased?

BROWN: The three guns were purchased, one of them was purchased in Goleta, the city adjacent to Isla Vista. Another was purchased in Oxnard and the remaining firearm was purchased in the city of Burbank, all from a federally licensed firearms dealers.

BROOKS: Right. Do we know how far before this happened he bought those three weapons?

BROWN: He bought the three of them I believe over the course of about a year.

BLACKWELL: So, there was this April 30th welfare check, where an officer went to his home. Were they members of your department?

BROWN: Yes, they were.

BLACKWELL: So knowing now that essentially with due respect, your officers got it wrong in saying there was nothing wrong there. What's your reaction to that?

BROWN: Well, I think it shows that the unfortunate situation that Mr. Rodger was, although deeply disturbed, he was able to put on a front, as it were, and convince them, and obviously convince a lot of other people that he didn't have problems that were so severe that it would require some fairly extreme intervention by mental health professionals. He obviously had been treated for quite some time by mental health care professionals.

He'd been prescribed medication and you know, he had a severe underlying mental illness, but on the surface, he presented, unfortunately, as many of our young students do, as someone who perhaps was going through some emotional problems, but not to the extent where anyone really truly believed he would be a danger to himself or other people.

And although the deputies were asked to check on him, they were actually asked to check on him by our mental health department, subsequent to a report that had been received from a third party, and subsequent to a follow-up call with his mother. They did that, we did that, went out and checked him.

But the deputies that interacted with him didn't feel as though he was a danger to himself or other people. He was articulate. He was polite. He was timid.

He told the deputies that he was having social problems here. That he was unlikely to actually continue in school here, but that he was fine and he was not going to hurt anyone or himself. And in fact, he, you know, was quite timid, and quite shy in his interaction with our deputies.

PAUL: Sheriff, you had said earlier he was treated by a variety of health care professionals. Can you give us any specifics about what he was being treated for or the medication you just mentioned, do you know what medication that was?

BROWN: You know, I can't. It's mentioned in the 141-page document that he left that I'm sure that you have, but I can't tell you what that medication was off the top of my head.

BROOKS: Had he ever been institutionalized for his problems?

BROWN: Not that we're aware of, and there was no indication in his autobiographical account of his life, and his ultimate plan to exact this day of retribution, as he called it. Nothing to indicate that that was the case.

BLACKWELL: Early on in this, and I'll ask actually how early on, the "my twisted world" this 141-page document and that day of retribution video, how early on after the shooting did you receive those? And were those dpi given to you or did your investigators seek those out?

BROWN: We actually received both of them quite soon after the incident began. He had sent a fairly large number of people copies of that manifesto, and we had received it from an allied law enforcement agency that had, the Santa Barbara police department who had actually obtained a copy of it, and as this incident was essentially, right after it had unfolded we received that information, and the indication that there was the now quite notorious video in which he, in a chilling manner, indicated what he was going to, what he was about to do.

BLACKWELL: How long before --

BROWN: So, we actually had it fairly soon after this started.

BLACKWELL: How long before the shooting did he send it out?

BROWN: You know, I don't know exactly, but it was very shortly before the shooting that it was actually disseminated.

PAUL: Sheriff, I'm sure that you have seen an awful lot in your profession. Have you ever seen something like this, and then so quickly gotten such a background on the suspect, in this case, from the suspect himself? Is this as bizarre to you, I guess, as it seems to us?

BROWN: No, it's pretty rare that you receive an autobiographical account that lays out not only the history of the suspect, obviously, in his terms and from his standpoint and viewpoint, but also a diary of sort, as well as an indication of what his homicidal plan was, and that combined with the level of carnage that took place is something that has been unique in my career and I've seen a lot of instances, including quadruple and quintuple homicides, but it was, by far, the most diabolically planned and executed mass murder that I've certainly ever been involved in, certainly that we've ever seen here in Santa Barbara County.

PAUL: Sheriff, is there any indication in any of this material as to how early and how long he was planning this attack?

BROWN: I'm sorry, I missed that again. Could you -- one more time?

PAUL: Is there any indication in any of the material that he sent or in your investigation where you can pinpoint how long ago he may have been planning this attack?

BROWN: It appears as though he was planning it for at least a year.

PAUL: You know, in this document, "my twisted world," he mentions by name the video game "World of Warcraft" 41 times. I know because I went through and counted myself. And he says, I guess pretty honestly that he'd become obsessed with this game and playing it and that's all he wanted to do. When you hear that and read that, what runs through your mind?

BROWN: Well, I think that these video games that focus on violence and body count and just absolutely reprehensible activities are just an absolute -- they're a plague on our society, and I think they need to be a sort of a red flag if people are taking an inordinate amount of interest in this type of so-called entertainment.

BROOKS: Sheriff, besides the contact that your deputies had with him on April 30th, had there been any other interaction with your department, any other calls for police service there where he lived?

BROWN: We had two other documented cases where we came into contact with him. One of them was in the fall of 2013, in which he was injured and at a hospital, and a U.C. police officer who was assigned to the Isla Vista foot patrol contacted him at the hospital. He explained he had been at a party at Isla Vista. He had been injured by he claimed to being pushed off of a balcony or a ledge at a location on Del Playa.

He had injured his ankle. He had a number of other injuries as well, claimed we been beaten up. As the officer investigated it, it appeared as though, in fact, he may have been the aggressor in that instance and had actually tried to push some other people off of this ledge and himself was pushed off. The case was actually suspended, pending some further leads, and it never went anywhere in terms of any kind of criminal prosecution.

There was another instance in January of 2014, in which he called our agency to report that one of his roommates had stolen three candles from him, and there apparently was some evidence that was the case. He effected a citizens arrest. The roommate was actually arrested and booked into our jail, released on a citation, and subsequently a petty theft charge was filed against the roommate.

Those were the three instances that we know of, where we've had previous contact, where we had previous contact with suspect Rodger.

PAUL: Well, Santa Barbara sheriff Bill Brown, we so appreciate you taking time to kind of help us fill in some of these blanks that we've been wondering about, as I'm sure everybody's been wondering about, but we know you've got a job to do. We want to let you go do it but thank you so much for being with us.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Sheriff.

BROOKS: Thank you, Sheriff.

BROWN: Thank you very much for having me.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Mike Brooks is going to stick around with us and we'll bring criminologist James Alan Fox in the conversation. Even with the 141-pages and the seven-minute video, there are so many questions. We're going to try to get some answers. Stay right here.


PAUL: Welcome. Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

I know this morning, we're all sitting here and we have a lot of questions about this suspect in this case, the shooter. Elliot Rodger, 22 years old, and were there any signs that he was as disturbed as it turns out he was?

Let's bring in criminologist and "Boston Globe" columnist James Alan Fox. He's also the author of "Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder."

BLACKWELL: We're also joined by HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks sticking around throughout the show. Police say a family member reached out to officials to check on Rodger's welfare April 30th, weeks ago essentially. They went to his home, they say that he was timid, he was OK, he was just fine.

Mike, I'm coming to you first. Is this something that should have been left up, we now know to deputies with Santa Barbara county sheriff's office?

BROOKS: Well, they're just going to go out and do the welfare check. You heard the sheriff say it came from, apparently, a relative of his, through the mental health people there in Santa Barbara County, to the sheriff's office.

And when the deputies go out, in California there's what they call a 5150 hold, involuntary psychiatric hold. But at the time that you go out and interview the person, you had to decide whether or not they seemed like they are a danger to themselves or others.

Now, he said he told the deputies he was having some problems in his social life, he probably wouldn't be coming back to school next year and the sheriff said he was timid, very polite, courteous. So, again he was able to fool the sheriff's deputies who went out to check on him because he at that time was not exhibiting any behavior that they would have deemed that he was a danger to himself or others.

PAUL: OK, I want to, in addition to this chilling video we've been talking about. Let's read another excerpt from this manifesto, it's one of those that popped out at us when we were reading this.

It says, "Every day that I spent at my college, the more interior and invisible I felt. I felt like an inferior mouse whenever I saw guys walking with beautiful girls. I had already worked so hard on my two classes I couldn't quit just then. The only way I could gain a boost in my self-esteem was to buy better looking clothes."

James, what do you make of that?

JAMES ALAN FOX, BOSTON GLOBE: Well, this is typical of mass killers who feel that they're the victim. They feel insignificant. They feel everyone else is picking on them, getting the advantage, and they are looking for some justice. In fact, mass murderers tend to see themselves as the good guy who's prevailing over evil. And if you read in his writings, and I hate calling it manifesto, it sort of elevates the importance. You read in his document, in his diary, he talks about himself as being almost like a god, who is going to prevail over the animals of the world.

So, what he's trying to do is to compensate for his feelings of inadequacy. At the end of the day, at the end of his life, being the victor, being the good guy who wins over everyone else to end in justice.

BLACKWELL: James, all teenagers at some point feel this, feel rejection. He said he was a virgin until he was 22.

PAUL: We've all felt inferior, rejected.

BLACKWELL: Yes, outside of the group.

What is the extra variable and how can people identify that?

FOX: Well, you can't identify it. That's the problem. We want to talk about red flags, really only yellow flags that turn red only after the blood is spilled.

That this fellow is really not so indistinguishable from thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of others out there who feel the same, but will not take a gun and start shooting. There is no way that we can identify, there's no way that that we can predict.

Sure, after the fact, hindsight is 20/20, we can say the police should have done something. But in advance, there's no way on earth for us to identify this individual or others like him as being a danger.

BLACKWELL: One of the things that when we talk about, Mike, you were talking about this, the folks that went, the sheriff's deputies that went and talked to him and they said he was polite -- is acting or being able to cover up what's going on, I have to think, one of the characteristics of these kinds of mental issues, and is there any way to recognize somebody's saying one thing and doing another, or to hone in on the fact that they're acting and maybe they don't really believe what they're putting out there? James?

FOX: Oh (INAUDIBLE), you said Mike.

No. No. Some individuals in this situation will indeed be visibly angry. You can't necessarily arrest hem because they're angry or disrespectful to the police and others will be very skillful at presentation of self.

This is obviously a bright individual. You can see that from his writing. We'd like to call him a madman, but hardly the ravings of a madman. It's the rantings of someone who feels angry.

But not crazy, and I think we have to distinguish someone who is deranged versus someone who is disturbed. Emotionally disturbed, yes. Mentally deranged? I don't think so. Certainly not to the point that we would see him as clearly a danger to self or others. Lots of people knew him. No one anticipated that this would be the result, and that's the challenge in situations like this.

PAUL: All righty. James Alan Fox and Mike Brooks -- gentlemen, thank you both so much for being here.

BLACKWELL: Another big story happening today, something people have been looking forward to for months now -- this big election in Ukraine. People are voting right now. They're choosing a new president but in parts of the country, ballots have been burned.