When 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went ballistic May 24 killing seven, including himself, the system in California failed miserably to protect innocent folks from an entirely preventable massacre. Santa Barbara police were warned April 30 in advance by Rodger’s mother, Lichin Rodger, of her son’s plans to massacre innocent victims. “I’ll take pleasure in slaughtering all of you,” said Elliot on YouTube. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown admitted that his deputies showed up at Elliot’s apartment April 30, “interviewed” him and concluded he was “shy and polite” posing no danger to the public. Since when do police make any determination about potential perpetrators’ mental status? Under California’s 1976 Tarsoff law, police aren’t mandated to evaluate the mental health of potential killers, they’re required to “detain-and-transport” suspects to qualified mental health facilities.
Santa Barbara police erred in turning Elliot loose once a report of potential violence was made. Their job was to detain-and-transport, not to make any determinations of mental status. Santa Barbara County Sheriff defended “deputies actions,” with spokeswoman Kelly Hoover admitting that deputies concluded the “shy young man posed no risk.” Victims’ families have a rock-solid case under California law to sue the Santa Barbara County Sheriff for gross negligence for failing to operate under the State’s existing Tarasoff law. “At the time deputies interacted with him, he was able to convince them that he was OK,” admitted Sheriff Brown to CBS News. Failing to detain-and-transport Elliot to a qualified mental health facility for a proper evaluation was where the Santa Barbara Sheriff went wrong. Who told the Sheriff it was their job to evaluate mental illness is anyone’s guess.
Well before Elliot’s divorced parents, Peter and Lichin, gave their son his BMW and sent him off to junior college in Santa Barbara, they had plenty of advice from the multiple therapists treating Elliot for Asperger’s disease and a host of other mental health problems. While his many therapists have yet to go public, it’s clear that Elliot had serious mental health issues before sending him off to college. Why the family didn’t continue his therapy in Los Angeles, provide him more supervision and treatment and allow him to attend one of the many community colleges closer to home is anyone’s guess. By the time Lichin frantically sent he husband to chase her son down in Santa Barbara right before the May 24 massacre, it was already too late to prevent the violence. Parents that send mentally ill children away to college bear some responsibility for violence episodes.
Santa Barbara authorities had plenty of probable cause to search Elliot’s apartment April 30 and find his arsenal of three legally purchase semiautomatics and hundreds of rounds of ammo. Today’s focus is on Elliot’s numerous posted videos and 131-page “manifesto” threatening to commit mass murder. Most of this evidence was available to the police before they went to his apartment April 30 and blew their simple task to “detain-and-transport” a suspect for proper evaluation at a qualified mental health facility. Law enforcement, despite their formal police training, doesn’t have the education, training and experience to assess complex mental health issues. Elliot’s multiple therapists were in a far better position to assess his fragile mental state to advise his parents about the advisability to sending him off to college. Despite privacy laws, therapists are accountable when it comes to violence.
According to press reports, Lichin called the Santa Barbara Sheriff May 23 after getting a call from Elliot’s therapist, alerting her to the videos and manifesto threatening a deadly rampage. Why the therapist didn’t make his or her own call to Santa Barbara authorities remains unclear. How long the therapist knew about Elliot’s videos, manifesto and violent plans is anyone’s guess. “They’re in deep grief,” said family friend Simon Astaire Sunday. “Their grief which is nearly unbearable to be close to is a much for the loss of their son as for the victims,” asking the press to respect the family’s privacy. While it’s true the family grieves, they bear some responsibility for sending their mentally ill son off to college when he needed more supervision and treatment back at home. Buying three firearms while off at college shows how current gun control laws fail to keep weapons from the mentally ill.
Elliot Rodger’s May 24 Santa Barbara massacre exposes all the failures in the current system that’s supposed to prevent the public from violence and victimization. Parents first need to show more responsibility when it comes to giving mentally ill children the resources and independence to get into trouble. Law enforcement officials need to better train their deputies to understand their role to “detain-and-transfer” suspects to qualified mental health facilities. Law enforcement personnel don’t have the education, training and experience to assess for violence. Gun dealers operating under the Second Amendment must be given appropriate gun control laws to check backgrounds of mentally ill gun buyers. It goes without saying that mental health professionals need to apply existing reporting laws when it comes to preventing future episodes of violent behavior.