A lone gunman killed six people and injured seven more during a shooting rampage Friday night in Isla Vista that Sheriff Bill Brown called “the work of a madman.” The suspect was killed after firing on responding deputies, but it’s not clear if the fatal wound to his head was self-inflicted or the result of return fire.
The seven injured victims are being treated at Santa Barbara Cottage hospital — some for gunshot wounds, others for trauma sustained when the suspect crashed his car as he was pursued — and one recently underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries.
Initial reports suggested that two suspects were involved in the shooting, but Brown said during a 2:30 a.m. press conference Saturday morning that the gunman acted alone. Brown said the man was armed with a semi-automatic handgun and that investigators are working to determine if other weapons were involved.
The names of the victims and the suspect have not been released. Brown, however, confirmed that written and video material left by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger of Calabasas in the hours and days leading up to the shooting is being reviewed as evidence in the massacre. “It appears to be connected,” he said.
In a YouTube video titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution” and posted the day before the shooting, Rodger — a Santa Barbara City College Student and Isla Vista resident, according to his social media accounts — laments his life of “loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires.” He blames women for throwing themselves at “obnoxious brutes” but rejecting him, “the supreme gentlemen.”
In graphic and unsettling detail, he describes how he plans to launch an assault on the streets of Isla Vista the next day and become a God who “exacts my retribution on all those who deserve it.” (The video is posted below. Please be warned: it is extremely disturbing.) Photographs taken by The Santa Barbara Independent of the suspect’s crashed vehicle on Del Playa Drive show a license plate number that matches the one on the car featured on Rodger’s Facebook page.
At the press conference, Sheriff Brown said dispatchers received calls at 9:27 p.m. of multiple shots fired near the UCSB college town’s central loop. Deputies on foot also heard the gunfire, Brown said, and responded to the area. They immediately came across several victims and started performing first aid as they received description reports of the suspect and his car.
Soon after, several more shots were fired, and at 9:33 p.m. the suspect engaged deputies in a brief but violent firefight. Brown explained there were nine separate crime scenes in the incident, which lasted only around 10 minutes but covered much of downtown Isla Vista. Dozens of rounds were fired, he said. No deputies were injured.
Seconds after the first confrontation, another exchange of gunfire took place, Brown said. The suspect fled in his car down Del Playa Drive and crashed into a parked vehicle. A mangled bike was visible at the scene. When deputies approached the vehicle, they discovered the suspect dead with gunshot wound to his head. The handgun was found in the car, Brown said.
Brown commended the deputies “who engaged very resolutely with the suspect” shortly after they were notified of the initial shootings, and said their actions likely prevented further death or injury during what he termed the “mass murder.” He said his heart goes out to the families of the victims, and he encouraged anyone with information on the suspect or the shootings to contact authorities.
When asked by reporters about the repeated violence that has plagued Isla Vista in recent months and years, and what can be done to stop it, Brown said that while the incident was “obviously a heartbreaking situation in a community that is adjacent to a world class university,” the shooting was “obviously the work of a mad man. … It’s unfortunate this kind of things occurs,” he said, but there are very limited ways to prevent it.
In the days and weeks to come, Brown went on, a clearer picture will soon emerge of “how disturbed this individual was.” While Isla Vista is a unique environment with unique law enforcement challenges, Brown said, “this kind of incident could have occurred anywhere.”
Brown explained that the investigation is still in its early stages, and that more information will soon be released. Brown’s office is being assisted in its investigation by the UCSB Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Barbara Police Department, investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, officials from California State Parks, and criminalists from the Department of Justice crime lab.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in locating other witnesses to interview. Anyone who witnessed the events is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 805-681-4171.