Police didn't view videos of US shooter

Police officers who visited Elliot Rodger just weeks before the 22-year-old went on a shooting rampage that left six dead and more than a dozen injured knew of disturbing videos he posted online, but did not check them, officials said last Thursday.

A new timeline released by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office shows the police responded to a welfare check phoned in by a county mental health worker on the night of April 30 and found a shy, timid but polite Rodger outside his apartment, reported Reuters.

Four sheriffs' deputies, a University of California at Santa Barbara police officer and a dispatcher in training asked him during the 10-minute encounter about the videos he had posted online, but he said they were simply a way of expressing himself as he was having trouble fitting in socially.

In a video uploaded to YouTube the day before the massacre, virgin Rodger discloses that he had never even kissed a girl. He declared, "I will kill every single blonde s--- I see", blaming women for throwing themselves at "obnoxious brutes" but rejecting him, the "supreme gentleman".

"Sheriff's deputies concluded that Rodger was not an immediate threat to himself or others, and that they did not have cause to place him on an involuntary mental health hold, or to enter or search his residence," the sheriff's office said in the statement.

"Therefore, they did not view the videos or conduct a weapons check on Rodger." 

A deputy called Rodger's mother and briefed her on the situation, then gave the phone to Rodger who told her everything was fine and that he would call her later, the statement said.

The officers gave him information on support services and left.

"The sheriff's office has determined that the deputies who responded handled the call in a professional manner consistent with state law and department policy," it added.

PETTY THEFT CASE

Typically, only two deputies respond to mental welfare calls, but a few unassigned officers showed up due to their experience with Rodger in a petty theft case, the statement said.

Neighbour Chris Pollard, 22, who was interviewed by Reuters after the shootings, described watching the latter's videos, titled, "Spring break sucks when you're lonely", and "My reaction to seeing a couple at the beach...envy," and posted around that time.

"It was a clear cry for help," said Mr Pollard, adding that he had found the videos too disturbing to watch in their entirety.

But it was unlikely the police could have done more during their check, he said.

"I mean, how far can you go without violating somebody's rights?" Mr Pollard said.

"When you looked at (Rodger), there was no reason to get concerned. He didn't seem like a threatening or intimidating guy. He was just very quiet."

FIREARM SALES

Meanwhile, US lawmakers moved last Thursday to boost funding of the national background check system for firearm sales, a small but symbolic step towards broader gun law reform following recent mass shootings, reported AFP.

The measure would provide US$19.5 million (S$24.5 million) to help states submit records to a federal database aimed at preventing felons and the mentally ill from buying weapons.

Supporters of the amendment say the measure would keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.


This article was first published on June 02, 2014.
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