A Brief History
On May 23, 2014, a mentally disturbed 22 year old man took his mental illness to a new level by killing 3 people with a knife, another 3 with pistols, and injuring another 14 with gunshots and his car, eventually taking his own life as well, in an incident known as the Isla Vista Killings.
Despite having psychiatric care since the age of 8, Elliot Rodger had not been officially diagnosed with a mental illness, even though he had been prescribed anti-psychotic medicine. (Is it me, or does that seem like the doctors thought he was mentally ill?) The troubled youth’s mother claims he also had Asperger Syndrome, though this was also not officially diagnosed. Something of a misfit, Elliot seems to have never really gotten along in school, with bullies picking on him throughout his life. Upon turning 18, Elliot started to refuse mental health treatment, refuse to take his medicine, and turn away people that tried to befriend him. A family friend claims Elliot exhibited mental illness basically from birth.
Elliot’s parents were concerned enough by repeated incidents of anti-social behavior by Elliot (including throwing coffee on girls that did not smile at him and trying to throw 3 girls over a 10 ledge) and his YouTube blog that included his rants about being treated poorly by people in general and especially women and girls, that they contacted the local police to intervene only 3 weeks before the rampage. The deputies that arrived to investigate did not search Elliot’s room, or they would have found the Glock and 2 Sig pistols he had purchased (legally). These deputies did not find enough cause to have Elliot forcibly taken for psychiatric evaluation. Elliot had told the deputies that they were called because of “a misunderstanding” between his parents and him.
The fatal rampage started when Elliot stabbed his 2 male roommates and a visitor to death in their shared apartment, using 2 knives. Rodger then went to Starbucks and got himself a coffee, then uploaded a sort of manifesto video and email to the Internet in which he described his anger over being rejected by women, by interracial couples, minorities (he was half Oriental), and his plans for a shooting rampage. In these communications he talked about his life of frustration and family problems as well.
About 3 hours after the stabbing murders (one victim was stabbed 94 times and had another 11 incision wounds!) Elliot drove by a sorority house of the University of California Santa Barbara and knocked on the door. Receiving no reply, Elliot began shooting random people in the area, killing 2 sorority sisters (from a different sorority) and wounding another. Elliot then drove past a closed coffee shop and shot at it, coming to the Isla Vista Deli Mart, firing multiple shots into the place, killing another person. Elliot again drove off in his BMW 328 shooting at people and trying to run others over with his car, hitting a pedestrian with his car and shooting 3 more people. A deputy engaged Elliot in gunfire while Elliot hit 2 more pedestrians with his car. Continuing his rampage, Elliot shot 3 more victims and hit another 3 with his car, exchanged gunfire with 3 more deputies and was struck in his hip by a bullet fired by a deputy. In the ensuing chase, Elliot hit another pedestrian with his car, then crashed and shot himself, dying and ending the rampage.
Elliot, a clearly mentally disturbed person, had shot 3 people to death, stabbed 3 people to death, wounded 7 more by gunfire and wounded 7 more by using his car as a weapon, then committing suicide. The mental health medical community had failed to stop this troubled youth from his murderous spree and law enforcement felt helpless to do anything about the warning by Elliot’s parents under the restrictions of the laws of the land and police procedures. If you are tempted to cry out for “More gun control!” then we hope you also cry out for knife and car control as well, for those items proved just as deadly in this sad case.
As we have stated numerous times on this web site, mental health issues are extremely important in the potential prevention of mental illness inspired killing sprees. We recommend that psychiatrists have a mandate to report people that may be dangerous and those persons placed on a “no buy list” to prevent them from buying guns. Police should be given discretion to seize guns until a psychiatric determination can be made about a person’s mental health. Families and the public at large need to be educated about recognizing the signs of mental illness and given a referral process to have family or friends evaluated psychiatrically. Of course, we strongly encourage any of these steps to also protect the rights of the person being identified as potentially dangerous and that these people so identified be given the opportunity to quickly defend themselves from allegations. Senator Diane Feinstein among others predictably blamed the NRA for responsibility for the tragedy, and demanded Draconian new gun control measures, none of which would have done anything to have stopped the rampage. Seriously, how would that have stopped the stabbing and car attacks?
As it was, the parents of those young men killed by stabbing sued the county and Sheriff’s Department for failing to take preventative action. Those victim families also expressed disgust at public interest being greater about the perpetrator than about the victims, and decried the perception that the accused mentally ill person had “more rights” that eclipsed those of the victims.
In typical political action, the Congress of the United States passed a resolution (608) condemning the “senseless rampage and mass shooting in Isla Vista.” Well, who would not condemn the rampage? This is what Congress does instead of something useful!
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think could have been done to prevent this terrible incident? What mental health measures would you propose to help prevent similar incidents? Are there any reasonable gun control measures that would have prevented these crimes? (The guns were legally purchased with background checks, etc.) Please share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Edelstein, Arnon. Multiple-Victims Murder: Criminology & Serial Killers. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.