The attack began when Rodger stabbed three men to death in his apartment. Afterwards, he drove to a sorority house and shot three female students outside, killing two. He drove to a nearby deli and shot to death a male student who was inside. He began to speed through Isla Vista, shooting and wounding several pedestrians and striking several others with his car. Rodger exchanged gunfire with police twice during the attack, receiving a non-fatal gunshot to the hip. The rampage ended when his car crashed into a parked vehicle and came to a stop. Police found him dead in the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Before driving to the sorority house, Rodger uploaded to YouTube a video titled "Elliot Rodger's Retribution", in which he outlined details of his upcoming attack and his motives. He explained that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him and that he envied sexually active men so he wanted to punish them for their sexual activity.
After uploading the video, Rodger e-mailed a lengthy autobiographical manuscript to some of his acquaintances, his therapist and several family members. The document, titled "My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger", was made available on the Internet and became widely known as his manifesto. In it, he described his childhood, family conflicts, frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, his contempt for racial minorities and interracial couples, and his plans for what he described as "retribution".
In September 2012, Rodger visited a shooting range to train himself in firing handguns. In November 2012, he purchased his first handgun, a Glock 34 pistol, in Goleta, after doing research on handguns. As documented in his manifesto, he assessed the Glock 34 as "an efficient and highly accurate weapon."
In early 2013, Rodger bought two additional handguns, both SIG Sauer P226 pistols, writing that they were "of a much higher quality than the Glock" and "a lot more efficient". He purchased the weapons in Oxnard and Burbank.
According to his manifesto, Rodger had saved $5,000 of pocket money, which was given to him by his parents and grandmothers, in order to purchase the weapons and supplies that he needed for the attacks. Gun law experts have said that there was nothing in his known history that prevented him from making legal firearm purchases.
Rodger began his attacks at his apartment on Seville Road, where three men were found dead inside. Each victim had received multiple stab wounds, and all had been killed approximately three hours before the shooting spree. Their bodies were found the day following the shootings. They were identified as Rodger's roommates, Weihan Wang and Cheng Hong, and a friend named George Chen.
Faint bloodstains in the main hallway of the apartment indicate at least one of the victims had been attacked as he entered the apartment. Authorities later said that the presence of a blood-soaked bath towel and paper towels in the bathroom suggest Rodger had attempted to clean the hallway after each murder. The bodies of Wang and Hong were found in their shared bedroom, whereas Chen's body was found in the bathroom. The positioning of the bodies suggested each victim had entered the apartment separately before being murdered, and that Rodger had made efforts to conceal the bodies of the first two victims by covering them with blankets, towels, and clothing. Police removed a knife, a hammer, and two machetes from the apartment, but they later determined that two knives recovered from a backpack found in Rodger's car were the weapons used to kill the apartment victims.
Less than two hours preceding the shooting spree, Rodger went to a Starbucks coffee shop, where he purchased some coffee. He was later seen sitting in his car in the parking lot of his apartment building at about 8:30 p.m., working on his laptop. He uploaded the "Retribution" video at 9:17 p.m., and sent his manifesto e-mail at 9:18 p.m.
Rodger drove to the Alpha Phi sorority house at Embarcadero del Norte and Segovia Road near the University of California Santa Barbara. He knocked on the sorority house door for a few minutes. After no one answered, he began shooting people who were nearby. He first shot three Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters, killing two of them and wounding the third. Responding sheriff's deputies and nearby pedestrians ran to the victims and tried to tend to their wounds before ambulances arrived.
After returning to his car, Rodger drove two blocks onto Pardall Road and fired once at a coffee shop as he went eastbound. The shop was closed and unoccupied at the time, and no one was injured by the gunshot. He then arrived at the Isla Vista Deli Mart and fired several gunshots into the building, fatally shooting a student inside. His car was seen leaving the scene by four responding foot-patrol officers, but they did not identify him as the shooter and he escaped without incident.
Rodger drove south on Embarcadero del Norte on the wrong side of the street, striking a pedestrian crossing the street and firing at two others on the sidewalk but missing both. Embarcadero del Norte curves near a 7-Eleven convenience store, forming "The Loop", where he continued firing, hitting a couple exiting a pizzeria and then a female bicyclist. He drove south on El Embarcadero and shot at and missed a woman, turned east on Del Playa Drive, then made a U-turn and drove west, where he exchanged fire with a sheriff's deputy, who was responding to a 9:27 p.m. 9-1-1 call, and struck two pedestrians. Students at the Isla Vista Church, on Del Playa near Camino del Sur, were finishing a worship service at the time and heard gunfire.
Turning north on Camino del Sur, Rodger shot and wounded three people at Sabado Tarde, and also struck a skateboarder and two bicyclists with his car. Turning east on Sabado Tarde, he struck a skateboarder with his car and shot two other men at the intersection with Camino Pescadero. On Sabado Tarde near Little Acorn Park, he again exchanged gunfire, this time with three sheriff's deputies, and was shot in the left hip. Pursued by police, he turned south a second time on El Embarcadero, then west again on Del Playa. He struck a bicyclist, then crashed on the north sidewalk just east of the intersection of Del Playa and Camino Pescadero.
Police found Rodger dead inside his vehicle from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. He killed a total of six other people, and wounded fourteen others.
Police investigated a total of seventeen crime scenes. A search of Rodger's car recovered three pistols, the two knives used to kill the three men at the apartment, six empty ten-round magazines, and 548 rounds of unspent ammunition, all found in ten-round magazines or ammunition boxes. A total of 83 spent shell casings were recovered from the crime scenes, 55 of which were fired from Rodger and the remaining 28 from sheriff's deputies. Rodger purchased the 9mm guns legally in three different cities. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said that there was video and written evidence suggesting the crime was premeditated and that preparations took over a year.
Officers from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began searches of the separate homes of Rodger's mother and father in Los Angeles.
The media later reported the frantic attempt by Rodger's parents to intervene on the evening of the killings. After receiving a copy of the manifesto, Rodger's therapist phoned his mother. She checked his YouTube channel, where she found the "Retribution" video that he had uploaded minutes earlier. She called Rodger's father regarding the disturbing video. He was horrified when he watched the full video. Rodger's father, his current wife, and Rodger's mother all started frantically driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara in two separate cars. During the drive, they called police in Isla Vista and they arranged to meet them upon arrival. Hearing a radio news report of a shooting in Isla Vista, his mother called the therapist, who told her it was unrelated, saying that Rodger promised to act the following day and it would be unlike him to deviate from such details. When they reached the police station in Isla Vista, they learned that the news report was, in fact, about their son, and that he had killed six people.
A month after the rampage, the parents of the stabbing victims expressed anger and frustration about multiple aspects of the case, including the failure of police to take preventive action before the attack, the limited amount of information that the authorities had released about their children's murders, more public interest in Rodger than in the victims, and perceived emphasis on the rights of the mentally ill over the rights of victims. On March 2, 2015, the families of the three stabbing victims filed a federal lawsuit against the county, the sheriff's department, the apartment building and the property management. The wrongful death suit alleged that the defendants failed to recognize warning signs and take action to prevent the tragedy.
On February 18, 2015, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office released a 64-page final investigative summary report of the killings.
All six murder victims were students at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). They were declared dead at the scenes of their attacks.
The men killed at Rodger's apartment were identified as George Chen (Chinese: 陳喬治; pinyin: Chén Qiáozhì), 19; Cheng Yuan "James" Hong (Chinese: 洪晟元; pinyin: Hóng Chéngyuán), 20; and Weihan "David" Wang (Chinese: 王偉漢; pinyin: Wáng Wěihàn), 20. Hong and Chen were confirmed to be Rodger's roommates according to an apartment lease, while police were investigating whether Wang was also a resident or visiting the apartment on the night of the killings.
The three students who died from gunshot wounds were identified as Katherine Breann Cooper, 22; Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20; and Veronika Elizabeth Weiss, 19. Cooper and Weiss, both members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, were killed outside the Alpha Phi sorority house, while Michaels-Martinez died inside the Isla Vista Deli Mart.
On February 18, 2015, autopsy reports for all six slain victims were released by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office as part of a 64-page final investigative summary report:Weihan Wang suffered a total of fifteen stab wounds and 23 incision wounds to the head, neck, chest, back, and both arms and hands.
Cheng Yuan Hong suffered a total of 25 stab wounds and twelve incision wounds to the head, neck, chest, back, and both arms and hands.
George Chen suffered a total of 94 stab wounds and eleven incision wounds directed to the head, neck, chest, back, and both arms and hands.
Katherine Cooper was shot eight times, including once in the left side of the head.
Veronika Weiss was shot seven times in the chest and lower pelvic area.
Christopher Michaels-Martinez was shot once in the chest.
Fourteen other people were injured; seven from gunshot wounds and seven by blunt trauma sustained when Rodger struck them with his vehicle. Eleven of the injured were taken to hospitals. Seven went to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where two were admitted in serious condition, one in fair condition, and two others in good condition, and one patient was released on the same day. The remaining four injured were taken to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, where they were all treated and released.
By June 14, graduation day at UCSB, all surviving victims had been released from the hospitals. Five attended graduation ceremonies. UCSB awarded posthumous degrees to the six slain students.
Elliot Oliver Robertson Rodger (July 24, 1991 – May 23, 2014) was confirmed by police to be the sole perpetrator of the killings.
Rodger was born in London, England, and moved to the United States with his parents when he was five years old. He was raised in Los Angeles. His mother is Li Chin Rodger, a Malaysian research assistant for a film company, and his father is British filmmaker Peter Rodger, whose credits include working as a second unit assistant director for The Hunger Games. A younger sister was born before his parents divorced. After his father remarried, he and his second wife Soumaya Akaaboune, a Moroccan actress, had a son together. Elliot Rodger's paternal grandfather was photojournalist George Rodger.
Rodger attended Crespi Carmelite High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Encino, Los Angeles, and then Taft High School in Woodland Hills. He graduated from Independence Continuation High School in Lake Balboa in 2009. He moved to Isla Vista on June 4, 2011. Rodger attended Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). In his manifesto, he said that he dropped out of all his classes in February 2012. The school said he was no longer taking classes.
Mental health and social problems
According to his family's attorney and a family friend, Rodger had seen multiple therapists since he was eight years old and while he was a student at SBCC. The lawyer said that Rodger was "receiving psychiatric treatment", but Rodger was never formally diagnosed with a mental illness. A psychiatrist had prescribed him anti-psychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but he refused to take it. According to Rodger's mother, he was diagnosed as having Asperger syndrome, but a formal medical diagnosis of the disorder was not made.
By the ninth grade, Rodger was "increasingly bullied," and he wrote that he "cried by [himself] at school every day". During his time at Crespi Carmelite High, he was bullied by other students including an incident that involved his head getting taped to his desk while he was asleep. According to Rodger, in 2012, "the one friend [he] had in the whole world who truly understood [him]" "blatantly said he didn't want to be friends anymore" without offering him a reason for ending the friendship.
Rodger had a YouTube account and a blog titled "Elliot Rodger's Official Blog", both of which contained posts expressing loneliness and rejection. He wrote that he had been prescribed risperidone but refused to take it, stating, "After researching this medication, I found that it was the absolute wrong thing for me to take."
After turning 18, Rodger began rejecting the mental health care that his family provided, and he became increasingly isolated. He said that he was unable to make friends although acquaintances said that he rebuffed their attempts to be friendly.
Screenwriter Dale Launer, who was a friend of the Rodger family, stated that he had counseled Rodger on approaching and befriending women, but that Rodger did not follow the advice. He said in an interview, "I first met [Rodger] when he was aged eight or nine and I could see then that there was something wrong with him. I'm not a psychologist, but looking back now he strikes me as someone who was broken from the moment of conception."
In July 2011, Rodger followed a couple he was jealous of out of a Starbucks in Goleta and threw coffee on them. In a later incident, he splashed his latte on two girls sitting at a bus stop in Isla Vista for not smiling back at him. In July 2012, Rodger purchased a Super Soaker, filled it with orange juice, and used it to spray a group playing kickball at Girsh Park.
Referring to an incident that occurred on July 20, 2013, Rodger wrote that "he tried to shove girls at a party over a ten-foot ledge after being mocked but failed", and instead other boys pushed him over it. He said that he "felt a snap in [his] ankle, followed by a stinging pain" and "tried to get away from there as fast as [he] could". Realizing that he left his sunglasses at the party, Rodger returned to retrieve them but the "same people he had tangled with before began mocking him and calling him names, then dragged him into the driveway to beat him up". One of Rodger's neighbors said that "he saw Rodger come home, crying" and said that Rodger claimed that he was going to kill the men involved, and "kill myself". Rodger told investigating officers that he had been assaulted, but they determined that he might have been the aggressor. He wrote in his manifesto that the incident was the final trigger for his planning of the attack.
On January 15, 2014, Rodger accused his roommate Cheng Yuan Hong of stealing his candles; he performed a citizen's arrest and called 9-1-1. Hong was charged with petty theft and pleaded guilty to the charge. Hong was one of Rodger's stabbing victims.
On April 30, 2014, about three weeks before the attack, Rodger's parents contacted police after becoming alarmed by his behavior and YouTube videos. He wrote in his manifesto that he had already planned the killings and purchased his guns by that time. The officers who interviewed him at his apartment would have found the weapons if they had conducted a search of his bedroom. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown later said that the deputies "determined he did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold" and that Rodger told them "it was a misunderstanding" with his parents.
Rodger's 107,000-word manifesto was titled "My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger". He e-mailed this manifesto to 34 individuals, including his therapist, his parents, and some of his other family members, former schoolteachers, and childhood friends. In the manifesto, Rodger claimed he originally sought to carry out his attack on Halloween of 2013, but reconsidered because "[t]here would be too many cops walking around during an event like Halloween, and cops are the only ones who could hinder my plans".
In his last YouTube video, titled "Elliot Rodger's Retribution", he complained of being rejected by women while envying sexually active men, and described details of his upcoming attack, laying out his motives and plans. In the wake of the killings, the video was deleted from Rodger's account, but copies were repeatedly re-posted by other users. In the video, he says:
Well, this is my last video, it all has to come to this. Tomorrow is the day of retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge against humanity, against all of you. For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I've been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection, and sex and love to other men but never to me.
I'm 22 years old and I'm still a virgin. I've never even kissed a girl. I've been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I'm still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I've had to rot in loneliness. It's not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime, because... I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.
He wrote in "My Twisted World" that being of mixed race made him "different from the normal fully white kids". On one online forum, he said that he opposed interracial dating and made several racist posts regarding African American, Hispanic, South Asian and East Asian peoples, stating that seeing men of these ethnic groups socializing with white women "makes you want to quit life". In one online post, Rodger wrote:
Full Asian men are disgustingly ugly and white girls would never go for you. You're just butthurt that you were born as an Asian piece of shit, so you lash out by linking these fake pictures. You even admit that you wish you were half white. You'll never be half-white and you'll never fulfill your dream of marrying a white woman. I suggest you jump off a bridge.
In his manifesto, Rodger made a racist comment regarding another boy, outlining some of his plans:
How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves.
On the day before the Day of Retribution, I will start the First Phase of my vengeance: Silently killing as many people as I can around Isla Vista by luring them into my apartment through some form of trickery.
The manifesto specifically mentions a "War on Women", as the second phase of his plan, for "starving him of sex", in which he states:
The Second Phase will take place on the Day of Retribution itself, just before the climactic massacre. ... My War on Women. ... I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender: The hottest sorority of UCSB.
Rodger stated in his manifesto that in his self-proclaimed ideal world, he imagined that he would "quarantine all [women] in concentration camps. At these camps, the vast majority of the female population will be deliberately starved to death. That would be an efficient and fitting way to kill them all off... I would have an enormous tower built just for myself... and gleefully watch them all die." He also said that he planned to kill his half-brother and stepmother, but wasn't mentally prepared to kill his father. The New Statesman posited that the manifesto may influence a "new generation of 'involuntary celibates'".
California Governor Jerry Brown offered condolences to the families of victims and said that he was "saddened to learn of this senseless tragedy". University of California President Janet Napolitano said in a statement while at Laney College, "This is almost the kind of event that's impossible to prevent and almost impossible to predict."
Several news networks, including ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and MSNBC, limited use of the "Retribution" video posted by Rodger out of fears of copycat crimes. The Fox News Channel refused to air the video altogether, instead showing five still photographs at the request of the network's vice president Michael Clemente. An ABC News spokesman, speaking for network president James Goldston, said, "James said that unless there is a specific editorial reason to use it, we would err on the side of not using it. We are going to be very judicious about the use of that video, mindful that its continued use turns it into wallpaper."
Students and community members gathered at Anisq'Oyo' Park in Isla Vista on the evening of May 24 for a candlelight memorial to remember the victims. In addition, the pastor of Isla Vista Church, one of the locations targeted by gunfire during the attacks, made church members "available throughout the weekend for students who would like to receive prayer or need to talk".
On May 26, UCSB canceled classes for the following day and scheduled a memorial service for that afternoon. It also set up counseling services and emergency housing for displaced students. On the following day, more than 20,000 people attended the memorial service at Harder Stadium. For the memorial, UCSB chancellor Henry T. Yang and executive vice-chancellor Joel Michaelsen said in a written statement, "This is a period of mourning for all of us. The moving candlelight vigil that our students organized on Saturday evening began the process of healing. On Tuesday we will remember and honor the victims of this horrible event and come together as an academic community to reflect, talk with each other and think about the future."
On May 23, 2015, the first anniversary of the attacks, hundreds of people gathered at UCSB for a candlelight vigil commemorating the six slain victims. The mother of George Chen was scheduled to speak at the event.
The attacks have renewed calls for gun control and improvements in the U.S. health care system, with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal saying,
"A year and half ago it seemed like we were on the verge of, potentially, legislation that would stop the madness and end the insanity that has killed too many young people, thousands, tens of thousands since Sandy Hook. I hope, I really, sincerely hope that this tragedy, this unimaginable, unspeakable tragedy, will provide impetus to bring back measures that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was."
Blumenthal also commented regarding the mental health debate,
"And I am going to urge that we bring back those bills, maybe reconfigure them to center on mental health, which is a point where we can agree that we need more resources to make the country healthier and to make sure that these kinds of horrific, insane, mad occurrences are stopped. And the Congress will be complicit if we fail to act."
California Senator Dianne Feinstein blamed the National Rifle Association's "stranglehold" on gun laws for the attack and said "shame on us" in Congress for failing to do something about it. Pennsylvania Congressman Timothy F. Murphy, a clinical psychologist, said his bipartisan mental health overhaul would be a solution and urged Congress to pass it.
Richard Martinez, the father of victim Christopher Michaels-Martinez, gave a speech in which he placed the blame of the attacks on "craven, irresponsible" politicians and the National Rifle Association. Martinez later urged the public to join him in "demanding immediate action" from members of Congress regarding gun control. He also expressed his sympathy towards Rodger's parents.
Doris A. Fuller, the executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, said that California law permitted emergency psychiatric evaluations of potentially dangerous individuals through provisions, but such actions were never enabled during the initial police investigation of Rodger. She said,
"Once again, we are grieving over deaths and devastation caused by a young man who was sending up red flags for danger that failed to produce intervention in time to avert tragedy. In this case, the red flags were so big the killer's parents had called police... and yet the system failed."
Some California lawmakers called for an investigation into the deputies' contact with Rodger on April 30. At the time of their visit, he had already bought at least two handguns, which had been entered into the California gun ownership database under his name, as required by California's universal registration law. The deputies were unaware of this fact, however, because they did not check the statewide gun ownership database. They did not view the YouTube videos that had caused Rodger's parents to contact them. The sheriff's office defended the actions of the deputies, as did other state law enforcement agencies. Some state lawmakers said they planned to introduce legislation that they believe would help prevent future such tragedies. On September 30, 2014, in the wake of the aforementioned incident, California legislators passed a law to enable a person to ask a judge to have guns seized from a family member who they feel is a danger to themselves or to others. The gun owner will have an opportunity to contest the seizure. Gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, opposed the legislation, citing that the rights of regular gun owners may be put in jeopardy due to a misunderstanding. The law went into effect in 2016.
The attack, videos, and written manifesto of Rodger sparked conversations about broader issues of violence against women and misogyny in society. Rodger indicated in online postings and YouTube videos that he would punish women for denying him sex and he would also punish men who had access to sex with women, as he did not. Rodger frequented online forums such as PUAHate and /r/ForeverAlone where he and other men posted misogynistic statements about women. He subscribed to several pick-up artist YouTube channels. For these reasons, as well as Rodger's apparent sense of entitlement to sex with women, he has been described as misogynistic.
Rodger wrote in his manifesto of his plan to invade a sorority house, which he concluded symbolized the world that tortured him, beautiful women who he believed would have rejected him. He wrote, "I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there. All those girls I've desired so much. They have all rejected me and looked down on me as an inferior man." When Rodger was unable to gain access to the sorority house after "vigorous knocking" on the sorority house door, he improvised, opening fire on nearby women students.
Mary Elizabeth Williams, a staff writer for Salon, objected to the media labeling Rodger as the "virgin killer", saying that it reinforces gender roles with a "not so subtle insinuation ... that one possible cause of male aggression is a lack of female sexual acquiescence". Amanda Hess, writing for Slate, argued that although Rodger killed more men than women, his motivations were misogynistic because his reason for hating the men he attacked was that he thought they stole the women he felt entitled to. Writing for Reason, Cathy Young countered with "that seems like a good example of stretching the concept into meaninglessness—or turning it into unfalsifiable quasi-religious dogma" and noted Rodger also wrote many hateful messages about other men. National Post columnist Barbara Kay criticized the focus on the female victims and pointed to gendered massacres targeting males, such as in wartime Srebrenica and a school massacre carried out by Boko Haram.
Comments and coverage of misogyny as a root cause have generated criticisms of oversimplification and distortion of the events, which included the killings of more men than women and Rodger's mental health issues. Chris Ferguson, a psychologist writing in Time, argued that laying the blame on misogynistic culture glosses over how Rodger was one particular mentally disturbed man (see above). Some writers used the #NotAllMen hashtag on Twitter to express the fact that not all men are misogynistic and not all men commit murder. Others criticized use of this hashtag, as it was considered to derail from discussion of the issue of violence against women. Someone created the Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen on May 24 to express that all women experience misogyny and sexism, although not all men are sexist.
The United States House of Representatives voted on June 10, 2014, to pass House Resolution 608, entitled Condemning the senseless rampage and mass shooting that took place in Isla Vista, California, on Friday May 23, 2014. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) said that Congress needed to take more action to stop gun violence, saying, "We must not let the drumbeat fall silent. Congress has the power to act and we must." Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) agreed with her, saying that "Americans, outraged by our inability to get anything done on the issue, are waiting for us to come to our senses and to act."