Eliot Rodger's short, sad life

Elliot Rodger in his BMW: He was born into a life of privilege, but as he grew up, despair and anger took over his life.

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Elliot Rodger in his BMW: He was born into a life of privilege, but as he grew up, despair and anger took over his life.

In video after video, Elliot Rodger roamed Santa Barbara like an invisible man, narrating his lonely existence in a strange, clinical tone, consumed by a feeling of total alienation.

"Look at them," Rodger said to his camera phone, staring at a couple on a picnic bench at the beach. "He's in heaven right now, sitting on this beautiful beach, kissing her, feeling her love, while I'm sitting here alone, 'cause no beautiful girl wants to be my girlfriend."

But that appearance of childlike guilelessness — a 22-year-old man lamenting that he was still a virgin and expressing the simple desire to be loved by a woman — gave way to pledges of revenge to come. "I don't know why you girls haven't been attracted to me, but I will punish you, for it is an injustice," he said.

He posted eight such videos on YouTube on Friday evening before he killed six University of California, Santa Barbara students in Isla Vista. After a gun battle with deputies, he was found dead in his BMW.

In other mass killings, authorities have had to grope for reasons behind the attacks. But Rodger trumpeted his motives, posting the videos and sending a 137-page typed manifesto titled "My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger" to an online acquaintance and one of his therapists. Together they showed a spiral of self-pity and pining for his childhood that warped into a hatred of women and the men with whom they had relationships.

• • •

A child of privilege and divorce, Elliot Rodger was born in England and moved to Los Angeles when he was 5. His father was Peter Rodger, a British-born movie director and photographer, who was an assistant director on the first Hunger Games movie. His mother was a Chinese woman, Li Chin.

Rodger's family suspected he was somewhere on the autism spectrum, and he had been in therapy since childhood. He was prescribed psychotropic drugs but declined to take them, he wrote in his manifesto.

Rodger's ramblings describe the internal turmoil of a young man at once arrogant and pathetic, unable to see a better future, sinking deeper into despair and anger.

He wrote that his parents divorced when he was 7, which he called a "life-changing event." He remained close to his mother but had a falling-out with his father that lasted several years. After the divorce, he said, he realized he was uncool and timid with "a dorky hairstyle" and became self-conscious about his race. "I was shy and unpopular.... I am half white, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully white kids that I was trying to fit in with."

He said he dyed his hair blond to fit in but was increasingly bullied by ninth grade. "I felt very small, weak, and above all, worthless. I cried by myself at school every day."

The family was caring and attentive, said family friend Adam Krentzman. But after Elliot turned 18, he started rejecting mental health care that his family provided. "He turned his back on all of it," Krentzman said. "At some point, your kid becomes an adult."

The evolution of Rodger's breakdown is not clear from his text, but he wrote of losing his only friend sometime around the beginning of 2012. "He blatantly said he didn't want to be friends anymore. He didn't even deign to tell me why.... It was the ultimate betrayal. I thought he was the one friend I had in the whole world who truly understood me."

He wrote that his mother bought him the BMW to give him confidence, but it didn't. Seeing any couple set him off. In particular he vented about Indian, Asian and black men dating the blond women he desired.

Chris Pollard, 22, a neighbor in Rodger's Isla Vista apartment building, said he had been rebuffed as he tried to encourage Rodger to socialize with other residents in the building.

"He just sat and was non-responsive," Pollard said. "He looked like he became gradually more frustrated or bored and then eventually he would just get up and go inside."

• • •

Rodger wrote that he first began to plan his "Day of Retribution" in the spring of 2013. He bought his first gun, a Glock 34, for $700. "After I picked up the handgun, I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power," he wrote.

As he planned the attack, he left a trail of bitter comments on online forums. In one posting at PuaHate.com, he ridiculed an Asian man trying to date a white girl, and said it was "rage-inducing" to see "black guy chilling with 4 hot white girls."

The videos give a more intimate view of his pathos. One afternoon, he was walking through the parking lot of a golf club on the bluffs just west of Isla Vista. "I come here to admire the whole beauty and serenity of the place," he said, affecting a haughty voice. "The world is such a beautiful place. It's such a tragedy that I've had such a pathetic life in it, all because of the cruelty of humanity and woman."

He approached his car, and the camera caught his reflection on it. "There's me, in all my fabulousness," he said with disdain. "Elliot Roger. I am so awesome."

He sat in the driver's seat. "Sex, love, companionship — I deserved those things... But girls are not sexually attracted to me."

• • •

On Sunday evening, a crowd prayed in front of the Alpha Phi sorority house in Isla Vista, where Rodger shot three women, two of whom died. There was a surprising amount of compassion for Rodger — for how he lived, if not how he died.

"The insecurities and rejection he felt is something I believe exists in a lot of hearts in this city," said Yvette Johnson, 22. "There's this unspoken survival of the fittest. If you don't fit in a box, you're going to feel rejected."

"Some people think that he doesn't deserve love," said Christina Perez, 24. "But we all deserve love."

Contributing: New York Times

Eliot Rodger's short, sad life 05/26/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 26, 2014 7:28pm]

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