Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Gunman was our son, family believe

The family of a man they believe went on a shooting rampage near a university in Santa Barbara, California, called police several weeks ago after being alarmed by YouTube videos "regarding suicide and the killing of people," a lawyer said today.

Police interviewed Elliot Rodger and found him to be a "perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human", family attorney Alan Shifman said.

Shifman added that police did not find a history of guns, but did say Rodger "didn't have a lot of friends", had trouble making friends and didn't have any girlfriends.

Shifman is the attorney for Peter Rodger, who was one of the assistant directors on The Hunger Games film series. Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the gunman.

Police said a gunman driving a BMW near the university campus went on a rampage that left seven people dead, including the shooter. Authorities described the tragedy as "obviously the work of a mad man".

Seven people remain in hospital with gunshot wounds or other injuries, including one who has undergone surgery, following the shooting spree Friday night in the beachside community of Isla Vista, Santa Barbara County sheriff Bill Brown said.

The gunman got into two gun battles before crashing his black BMW into a parked car. Deputies found the lone suspect dead with a gunshot wound to the head, but it wasn't immediately clear whether he was killed by gunfire or if he committed suicide, Brown said.

A semi-automatic handgun was recovered from the scene near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Investigators know the gunman's name, but Brown said he couldn't release it pending notification of relatives.

Describing the atrocity as "premeditated mass murder," Brown said, authorities were analysing a disturbing YouTube video that shows a young man describing plans to shoot women that appears to be connected to the attack.

Officials would not say whether the person in the video was a suspect in the shooting.

In the video, posted Friday, the man sits in a black car and looks at the camera, laughing often, and says he is going to take his revenge against humanity. He describes loneliness and frustration because "girls have never been attracted to me," and says, at 22, he is still a virgin. The video, which is almost seven minutes long, appears scripted. The identity of the person in the video could not be independently confirmed.

The shootings started around 9:30pm in Isla Vista, a community next to UC Santa Barbara's campus and picturesque beachside cliffs.

Alexander Mattera, 23, said his friend Chris Johnson, was walking out of a comedy show when he was shot in front of a popular pizza place. He stumbled into a nearby house.

"He walked into these random guys' house bleeding," he said.

Mattera was sitting at a bonfire with friends when at least one gunshot whizzed overhead. The friends ran for cover when they heard the barrage of gunfire.

"We heard so many gunshots. It was unbelievable. I thought they were firecrackers. There had to have been at least like two guns. There were a lot of shots," he said.

The shootings occurred at several sites, resulting in nine crime scenes, police said.

A visibly shaken student told the station she was approached by the driver of a black BMW who flashed a handgun and asked "Hey, what's up?" The student, who didn't provide her full name, said she thought he was carrying an a replica gun and kept walking. She said seconds later, she felt something buzz by her head and quickly realised they were bullets.

Kathrin Schirazi Rad got a call from her 21-year-old son, Adrian Timothy Petersson, who told her in a shaky voice that he had been knocked off his skateboard by a BMW being chased by police about 9pm Friday. He hurt his shoulder, but he went home after being checked by paramedics at the scene.

"He was in shock," said Rad, who lives in Sweden. "He saw some plastic bags and said somebody must have died. He couldn't confirm anything. He was pretty shaken up. It was so many things happening at the same time."

The victims' identities were not immediately released.

In a statement, the University of California, Santa Barbara said it's "shocked and saddened" by the shootings. The university said several students were shot and taken to the hospital.

No police were injured or shot. Brown called it a "heartbreaking situation for a community next to a world-class university".

Isla Vista has a reputation for excessive partying. Last month, an annual spring bash spiralled into violence as young people clashed with police and threw rocks and bottles. A university police officer and four officers were injured and 130 people were arrested.

The community has experienced other tragedies in the past.

In 2001, the son of Ally McBeal TV director Daniel Attias ran down four pedestrians with his car on a crowded Isla Vista street. Witnesses testified that part-time college student David Attias got of the car and shouted: "I am the angel of death."

David Attias was ruled insane after he was convicted of second-degree murder and is locked up in a state mental hospital.

Former homeland security secretary and current University of California president Janet Napolitano said the shooting was "almost the kind of event that's impossible to prevent and impossible to predict".

Ms Napolitano, who took over as head of the UC system in September, made the remarks after a commencement speech in Oakland today.

She said she was "shocked and deeply saddened" and was sending thoughts and prayers "to the victims of this tragedy, their families and the entire Santa Barbara community".

She added she was working with UCSB to help students and families.

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