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Sheriff's deputies who showed up at Elliot Rodger's doorstep last month to check on his mental health didn't watch online videos in which he threatens suicide and violence even though those recordings were what prompted his parents to call authorities.
By the time law enforcement did see the videos, it was too late: The well-mannered 22-year-old man that deputies concluded after their visit April 30 posed no risk had gone on a rampage on Friday in which he killed six students from the University of California, wounded 13 other people, and then apparently shot himself as police officers closed in on him after he crashed his BMW.
The tragedy highlights the challenges that police face in assessing the mental health of adults, particularly those with no history of violence or institutionalizations.
"They found him to be apparently shy, timid, polite, well-spoken," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Sunday. "He was able to convince them that he was not at that point a danger to himself or anyone else.'' He added: "You need to understand that this is a fairly routine type of call."
It's not clear why the deputies did not become aware of the videos. Attorney Alan Shifman said the Rodger family had called police after being alarmed by YouTube videos "regarding suicide and the killing of people" that their son had been posting. He already was under the care of therapists.
Rodger, writing in a manifesto found after his death, said he was relieved his apartment wasn't searched because deputies would have uncovered the cache of weapons he used in the rampage in the beach town of Isla Vista, near Santa Barbara.
He posted at least 22 YouTube videos. He wrote in his manifesto that he uploaded most of his videos in the week leading up to April 26, when he originally planned to carry out his attacks. He postponed his plan after catching a cold. In the videos, he voices his contempt for many people, reserving special hate for two groups: the women he says kept him a virgin for all of his 22 years and the men they chose instead.
In the 137-page manifesto Rodger e-mailed to an online acquaintance before the killings, he envisioned a future in which sexuality no longer existed, and women were housed in concentration camps. He pledged to do "everything in my power to destroy everything I cannot have."
Because many of the videos were removed from YouTube then re-added in the week leading up to the killings, it's unclear which of the videos alarmed his family.
In a last-minute bid to intervene, Rodger's parents raced to his home Friday night after his mother saw his online threats, but the couple heard the news of a shooting on the radio as they were on the freeway, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The rampage played out largely as he sketched it in public postings, including a video where he sits in his BMW in sunset light and appears to be acting out scripted lines. "I'll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you," he says.
Police said Rodger first stabbed to death three UC Santa Barbara students in his apartment. They were Cheng Yuan Hong, 20; George Chen, 19; and Weihan Wang, 20. Hong and Chen were listed on the lease as Rodger's roommates.
Rodger then shot and killed three more students as he drove round Isla Vista: Katherine Cooper, 22; Veronika Weiss, 19; and Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20. Cooper and Weiss were killed outside the Alpha Phi sorority house; Michaels-Martinez was killed while he was eating at a nearby delicatessen.
Reporting: Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times