On May 23, 2014, a Friday, Elliot Rodger, 22, stabbed three young men to death, probably attacking them while they slept. Two victims, Weihan “David” Wang, 20, Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, had been Rodger’s roommates. The third, George Chen, 19, was visiting for the night.
From the apartment he had turned into a slaughterhouse, Rodger uploaded a video entitled “Retribution” to YouTube and emailed a document entitled “My Twisted World” to about a dozen people including family members and therapists.
Rodger got into his black BMW and drove to the Alpha Phi Sorority House on the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus. Sorority members heard what one later described as “loud and aggressive” knocking. They wisely declined to answer.
Rodger shot three women across the street, killing Veronika Weiss, 19, and Katie Breann Cooper, 22.
Then Rodger got behind the wheel of his BMW and drove to a delicatessen. He exited his vehicle and entered the IV Deli Mart, where Rodger shot and killed USCB student Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20.
Rodger returned to his car. While driving, he shot three pedestrians and exchanged shots with a sheriff’s deputy. Rodger directed his car into a bicyclist, leaving an injured victim.
At an intersection, Rodger fired repeatedly at pedestrians, leaving three wounded. He exchanged gunfire with police officers before racing off and again deliberately driving his car into a bicyclist. Writing for CNN.com, Shelby Lin Erdman and Greg Botelho report, “The cyclist landed on the windshield of the suspect’s car so hard that the force of the impact carved in its windshield.” Rodger ended the rampage by crashing his car into parked cars.
Cops rushed to Rodger’s car, dragged him from it, and handcuffed him. However, Rodger was already dead, having shot himself in the head.
Rodger was the son of film director Peter Rodger, who had worked on the hit motion picture The Hunger Games, and film research assistant Li Chin Rodger.
Peter and Li Chin were married when Elliot was born on July 24, 1991 in London, England. A sister followed Elliot.
The Rodgers went to the United States when Elliot was five to settle in Los Angeles, California.
As a child, Elliot had difficulty making friends. He was often teased. He suffered a trauma at seven years old when his parents divorced. Elliot and his younger sister lived weekdays with Mom and often spent weekends with Dad. Both parents were concerned about their lonely and bullied son, so Elliot started seeing therapists when eight years old.
As he grew, Elliot became increasingly self-conscious about his short stature and slight build. He later stated feeling, “I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half-white, half-Asian” and that he believed this alienated the “normal” youngsters of “fully white” ancestry whose acceptance he craved.
At nine years old he dyed his hair blond – but this did not help him fit in.
Elliot attended three different high schools, all in Los Angeles. Former classmate Patrick Connors recalled that when Rodger once fell asleep in class at the all-male Roman Catholic Crespi Carmelite High School, other kids taped his head to his desk.
At Taft High School, Rodger is reported to have become “panic stricken” and “frozen” while walking in the hallway. Staff telephoned Li Chin to pick him up. His mother walked him to the car. After several weeks at home, he entered Independence High School from which he graduated in 2010.
In June 2011, Rodger moved out of Li Chin’s home and into the Capri Apartments near the community college he attended, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). The Capri is located in Isla Vista, an unincorporated college community that is part of Santa Barbara. Eventually, Hong and Wang, both UCSB students, moved in with Rodger.
Frustrated by his inability to get a girlfriend, Rodger began striking out as early as 2011. In “My Twisted World,” Rodger wrote of being enraged in 2011 by the sight of a couple kissing in a Starbucks. Rodger continued, “When they left the store I followed them to their car and splashed my coffee all over them. The boy yelled at me and I quickly ran away in fear.” After the coffee splashing incident, he realized he “was capable of killing them.” He wrote, “The males deserve [to die] for taking the females away from me, and the females deserve it for choosing those males instead of me.”
Rodger dropped out of SBCC in February 2012 because it was upsetting to see “all of those beautiful girls I could never have.” He recalled this as a turning point: “I knew that the Day of Retribution was now very possible.”
In July 2012, Rodger was overcome with envy watching “a group of popular college kids” at a park. He wrote, “I drove to the nearby K-mart, bought a super-soaker, filled it up with orange juice that I bought at the same store, and drove back to the park. I screamed at them with rage as I sprayed them with my super soaker.”
Rodger visited a gun range in September 2012. He wrote that he wanted “to gain some initial training in shooting guns” since they would “be the main weapons I use as vengeance.” He purchased his first handgun in December 2012.
Rodger attended a July 20, 2013 party, later writing, “I was giving the female gender one last chance to provide me with the pleasures I deserved from them.” To work up courage, Rodger downed a few swigs of vodka before walking into the party.
Rodger got riled because no one came over to chat with him. He later wrote that he realized “how pathetic I looked all by myself when everyone was partying around me.” Rodger climbed onto a wooden ledge. Others also climbed onto the ledge – but without talking with Rodger. Enraged, he tried to push others off but they pushed back. Rodger fell onto the street, breaking his ankle. A Good Morning America article reports, “As he stumbled away, he realized his Gucci sunglasses were missing. He turned back – but he was so drunk, he forgot where the party was, so he ended up walking onto a nearby front yard, demanding to know who took his sunglasses. The students there called him names, and more fighting followed. Eventually Rodger staggered home, beaten and bloody.”
Rodger reported the incident to the police, altering it to make himself the victim. Cops suspected Rodger was the aggressor. The case was dismissed.
Perhaps concerned about a son who had recently broken his ankle, Li Chin gifted Rodger in August 2013 with a black BMW. Rodger later wrote that this “better car” gave him “one last twinge of hope as the remaining months of 2013 passed.”
In January 2014 Rodger accused Hong of stealing Rodger’s three candles worth $22. Rodger performed a citizen’s arrest on Hong before calling 9-1-1. In the Los Angeles Times, Laura J. Nelson and Scott Gold report, “Sheriff’s deputies found the candles on Hong’s bed. He was arrested and charged with a petty theft infraction.” Hong pled guilty to petty theft. After Hong’s death, Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley filed a motion dismissing the case to posthumously clear Hong. In the San Jose Mercury News, Robert Salonga reports, “Hong’s brother said Rodger initiated the conflict when he took away Hong’s measuring cup out of annoyance over his cooking, and Hong responded by grabbing Rodger’s candles to force a trade.”
According to a man acquainted with Hong and Wang, they planned to move. In the Mirror, Ben Rossington and Christopher Bucktin report, “A fellow resident in the Capri apartments said Hong and Wang were desperate to get away from Rodger, who they described to others as ‘strange.’”
Rodger determined to take his revenge on humanity and set May 2014 as the month for it. In April 2014, he uploaded videos complaining bitterly about his life to YouTube.
Li Chin watched some of them. Deeply disturbed, she called police, asking them to check on him. On April 30, 2014, officers went to Rodger’s apartment. Police said Rodger was “polite” and did not appear disturbed although he admitted having an unsatisfactory social life. Later, he wrote, “As soon as I saw those cops, the biggest fear I had ever felt in my life overcame me. I had the striking and devastating fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do, and reported me for it.” He took those videos down but continued planning what he called his “Day of Retribution.”
Li Chin saw the “Retribution” video on YouTube on May 23, 2014. She telephoned Peter Rodger, and then police.
It was too late.
Lichin and Peter were driving toward Santa Barbara when a radio report told them their son had committed mass murder and suicide.