SANTA BARBARA, California (AFP) ― A student who stabbed three people to death and then fatally shot three more in a bustling California college town was the mentally disturbed son of a Hollywood director, police said on Saturday.
At least 13 people were injured and the shooter, named by police as Elliot Rodger, 22, apparently killed himself after the knife-and-gun rampage on Friday in Isla Vista, near the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara.
Rodger’s father is Peter Rodger, an assistant director of the 2012 Hollywood blockbuster “The Hunger Games.”
Police are investigating a disturbing video entitled “Retribution” apparently posted on YouTube by Elliot Rodger in which a man sitting in a car rants about women who rejected and ignored him for the past eight years, vowing to “punish you all for it.”
The bloodshed was just the latest in a string of gun massacres that have rocked the United States in recent years and is likely to trigger more passionate debate about gun rights.
Police had “contacts” with Rodger on three separate occasions before Friday’s killings, the first time in July 2013, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told a press conference.
Detailing how the horror unfolded, Brown said Rodger “repeatedly stabbed” three male victims at his apartment prior to the shooting rampage.
Once outside, Rodger targeted three women from across a street, killing two of them aged 22 and 19, Brown said.
Driving in his car, a black BMW, Rodger found his next victim, a 20-year-old student named Christopher Martinez, shooting him dead.
Police then went after him, Brown said, as Rodger shot indiscriminately at passers-by and drove all over the road.
Rodger was shot in the hip in a shootout, before zooming off once more and hitting a cyclist, throwing him onto the hood of his car.
“The suspect’s vehicle then collided with several parked cars and came to a stop,” said Brown, but Rodger “was obviously dead with an apparent gunshot wound to the head.”
Three nine-millimeter semi-automatic handguns were recovered from the BMW ― all legally purchased and registered ― and Rodger had dozens of unused rounds of ammunition.
Lawyer Alan Shifman, speaking for the Rodger family, said Elliot Rodger had been diagnosed as being a “highly functional Asperger’s Syndrome child” and was being treated by “multiple” professionals.
In the YouTube video, the man believed to be Rodger speaks of a “day of retribution” for his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires.”
“I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they have all rejected me and looked down upon me as an inferior man,” he says.
The shooting came just weeks before the end of the academic year, with some students preparing for graduation ceremonies while others were about to take final exams.
Rodger was a student but not at the university.
Richard Martinez, father of Christopher, choked up several times as he paid tribute to his son and blamed politicians and the gun lobby, asking in an emotional and at times angry speech: “When will this insanity stop?”
“Our family has a message for every parent out there: you don‘t think it’ll happen to your child until it does,” he said, his face contorted with despair and rage.
“Chris was a really great kid, ask anyone who knew him. His death has left our family lost and broken.”
His voice shaking with emotion, Martinez rounded on politicians and the powerful National Rifle Association.
“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA,” Martinez said, raising his voice.
“They talk about gun rights. What about Chris‘s right to live? When will this insanity stop?”
Andrew Jun, a third year economics and accounting student who witnessed the rampage, said the situation was “pretty surreal.”
“It’s unbelievable that this kind of thing can happen,” he said.
Other witnesses said they initially mistook the gunshots for fireworks or firecrackers.
Sienna Schwartz, her voice breaking, recalled how she came face-to-face with the gunman.
At first, she mistook the attacker‘s “little black pistol” for an airsoft gun.
“I turned around, and I started walking the other way. He shot, and I felt like -- I just felt, like, the wind pass right by my face,” Schwartz told CNN as she choked back tears.
By grisly coincidence, in 2001, the son of “Ally McBeal” and “The Wire” television series director Daniel Attias ran down four pedestrians with his car on a crowded street just a block away from the scene of Friday’s assault.
Witnesses said that part-time college student David Attias got out of the car after his deed and shouted “I am the angel of death.”
He was ruled insane and locked up in a state hospital after being initially convicted of second-degree murder.