OpEd: Time and time again, we hear stories of mass shootings and wonder why no one in the perpetrator’s circle saw any signs of trouble. If they did see signs, why did no one care enough to report these signs to someone who could help? CNN is reporting today that the Isla Vista killing of multiple innocent people last week had been carefully planned over the past few years and there were many close calls that could have derailed the scheme.
There were more than enough red flags and, sadly, some of the blame must be squarely placed on the shoulders of those charged to protect and to serve…the police. To be fair, the police probably get tips all day, every day about this or that. And often they might have to make decisions on whether to give priority to a robbery in progress (potentially saving lives now) or to a tip called in by a concerned family member about a relative exhibiting odd behavior (potentially saving lives in the future).
Sadly the mass slaughtering of innocent people by Elliot Rodger, 22, was a tragedy that could have been prevented. It is well documented all of the things that he did that indicated a troubled mind. Coffee seems to have been one of his weapons of choice. He once splashed hot coffee on a kissing couple out of jealousy because he had no one to kiss him. Another time he splashed a coffee latte on some girls at a bus stop because they wouldn’t smile back at him.
At one party an admittedly intoxicated Rodger went around trying to push girls off of a 10-fool ledge because they wouldn’t pay him any attention. He ending up falling and breaking his own leg instead. Even though karma seemed to have been trying to teach him a lesson, Rodger paid no heed. He continued plotting; writing, and filming his evil thoughts along the way.
Hind sight is 20-20, but one incident stands out with bell-like clarity as the moment all of this could have been stopped. Some of Rodger’s family members reported his strange behavior, writings, and videos to a mental health professional who immediately asked the police to go to Rodger’s home. Win – win on the part of the family and the mental health professional.
Alas, and now the police. They went to Rodger’s home and never went inside. They spoke to him on the porch and asked if he was suicidal? Uh…I’ll take suicidal lies for $100 Alex. Did these trained officers really think that he would freely admit what he was doing? At the very least didn’t they think it odd that he conducted the whole conversation on the porch? In his manifesto Rodgers himself said he thought it was all over because if they’d come inside they would have seen all of his guns.
The police response? Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, "He was articulate. He was polite. He was timid.” Hello officer, that is almost verbatim how neighbors and acquaintances described murderers like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, and Max Factor heir Andrew Luster.
It does no good to continue to bash the authorities for what cannot be changed. But in the future, I hope police will give utmost credence to when those closest to a person call foul. They might be unnecessarily alarmed, but there is at least one crime scene in Isla Vista that is a symbol to the world that it is better to err on the side of caution.
Our prayers and condolences go out to the families and friends of those lost in the tragic shootings on May 23, 2014.