GOLETA, Calif. (AP) — A Hollywood director believes his son was the lone gunman who went on a shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara that killed six people — weeks after the family had called police about disturbing YouTube videos he had posted, his lawyer said Saturday.
Deputies found the gunman dead behind the wheel of his crashed BMW with a gunshot wound to his head Friday night in the beach neighborhood of Isla Vista, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. The rampage also left seven others hospitalized with gunshot wounds or other major injuries, including one who underwent a life-saving surgery.
Alan Shifman — a lawyer who represents Peter Rodger, one of the assistant directors on “The Hunger Games” — issued a statement on behalf of the family saying they believe Rodger’s son, Elliot Rodger, was the shooter.
“The Rodger family offers their deepest compassion and sympathy to the families involved in this terrible tragedy. We are experiencing the most inconceivable pain, and our hearts go out to everybody involved,” Shifman said.
Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the shooter.
The shootings started around 9:30 p.m. in Isla Vista, a roughly half-square mile community next to UC Santa Barbara’s campus and picturesque beachside cliffs.
Alexander Mattera, 23, said his friend Chris Johnson was walking out of an improv 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 gunman got into two gun battles before crashing his black BMW into a parked car. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he was killed by gunfire or if he committed suicide.
A semi-automatic handgun was recovered from the scene near the university.
A visibly shaken student told KEYT-TV that 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 airsoft gun and kept walking. She said seconds later, she felt something buzz by her head and quickly realized 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 9 p.m. Friday. He hurt his shoulder, but he went home after being checked by first responders to the scene.
“He was in shock,” said Rad, who lives in Sweden. “He saw some plastic bags and said somebody must have died.”
The victims’ identities were not immediately released.
In a statement, the university said it’s “shocked and saddened” by the shootings. The university said several students were shot and taken to the hospital.
“This is almost the kind of event that’s impossible to prevent and almost impossible to predict,” UC President Janet Napolitano told reporters after giving the commencement speech at Laney College in Oakland, California.
Describing the shootings as “premeditated mass murder,” Brown said authorities were analyzing a disturbing YouTube video posted that shows a young man describing plans to shoot women that appears to be connected to the attack.
“It’s obviously the work of a madman,” Brown said.
In the YouTube video, posted Friday, the man sits in a 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 age 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.
Shifman said the family called police several weeks ago after being alarmed by YouTube videos “regarding suicide and the killing of people.”
Police interviewed Elliot Rodger and found him to be a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human,” he added. 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.
The family is not ready to speak publicly yet, the lawyer said, but wants to cooperate fully with police, public agencies and “any other person who feels that they need to help prevent these situations from ever occurring again,” Shifman said.
“My client’s mission in life will be to try to prevent any such tragedies from ever happening again,” he said. “This country, this world, needs to address mental illness and the ramifications from not recognizing these illnesses.”
Shifman said the family is “staunchly against guns” and supports gun-control laws. “They are extremely, extremely upset that anybody was hurt under these circumstances,” he said.
Isla Vista has a reputation for excessive partying. Last month, an annual spring bash spiraled into violence as young people clashed with police and tossed rocks and bottles. A university police officer and four deputies 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.