I Am Superior to Them All – Shooting in Santa Barbara
By Mike Roche
Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP
“Humanity has never accepted me among them, and now I know why. I am more than human. I am superior to them all. I am Elliot Rodger… Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent… Divine! I am the closest thing there is to a living god. Humanity is a disgusting, depraved, and evil species. It is my purpose to punish them all. I will purify the world of everything that is wrong with it. On the Day of Retribution, I will truly be a powerful god, punishing everyone I deem to be impure and depraved.”
These were the last hate-filled words written by Elliott Rodger in his 141-page manifesto before he went on his Santa Barbara killing spree. In reading his writing, and accentuated in his last words, it is clear that he was a narcissistic “wound collector.”
Narcissists often have difficulty with coming to terms with adversity. His first cited adversity was at 7 when his parents divorced. “This was a huge life-changing event.” At this age, most children are resilient enough to adjust to parental separation over 15 subsequent years. He also alleged that one of his roommates had stolen $22 worth of candles from him, causing Rodger to invoke a citizen’s arrest.
Another life-altering event for Rodger occurred at 12. “On one of my very last days as a teenager, as I was sitting at my usual place at the food court outside Dominos, I saw a sight that shattered my heart to pieces. A tall, blonde, jock-type guy walked into one of the restaurants, and at his side was one of the sexiest girls I had ever seen. She, too, was tall and blonde.
They were both taller than me, and they kissed each other passionately. They made me feel so inferior, worthless, and small. I glared at them with intense hatred as I sat by myself in my lonely misery. I could never have a girl like that. The sight was burned into my memory, and it caused a scar that will haunt me forever.” His hatred of women was evident. He shared the hatred towards men who had successful relationships with women.
What other mental illnesses he may have been suffering with, we do not know at this time. Despite his mental health impairment, he was able to process and organize with a high degree of intellect and efficiency. This is not uncommon among mass killers.
His manifesto spelled out a well-thought-out plan that he had been working on for at least a year. He initially planned his attack for November. When he attempted to push some females off a balcony of a house party, he was the one that was pushed. In the fall, he broke his ankle. He was determined to succeed. “I must plan this very efficiently. Nothing can go wrong. It needs to be perfect. This is now my sole purpose on this world. My plans will come to fruition, and I mustn’t let anyone stop me.”
Rodger posted angry verbal leakages to YouTube, which nearly foiled his plan. His mother had called the Santa Barbara Police to conduct a welfare check. “On the week leading up to the date I set for the Day of Retribution, I uploaded several videos onto YouTube in order to express my views and feelings to the world. I don’t plan on uploading my ultimate video until minutes before the attack, because on that video I will talk about exactly why I’m doing this. …”
In the Supreme Court case of O’Conner v Donaldson, the threshold for an involuntary commitment is to determine if someone is a danger to self or to others. Essentially, are they homicidal or suicidal? Having walked in the shoes of those officers, I understand the difficulty of conducting such an assessment in 15 minutes.
Even for those citizens who are committed, I have lost count of the number who exited out the rear door as fast as they went through the front door of crisis stabilization center. Trained mental health practitioners working short staffed, under budget cutbacks, and with lack of bed space, are merely attempting to stabilize an individual. They often have little choice but to dispense a handful of pills and a referral to a community-based program. With 1.8 billion dollars in budget cuts from 2009 and 2011, the mental system is collapsing.
When Rodgers answered the door, he wrote of his fear, “As soon as I saw those cops, the biggest fear I had ever felt in my life overcame me.” The officers interviewed him. He denied being suicidal and told them it was all a misunderstanding. I don’t know if the officers had the opportunity to view the videos in question prior to interviewing him.
When conducting threat-assessment interviews, I always tried to gain admittance to the subject’s residence. Despite the higher level of paranoia and distrust, most were willing to allow me access to avoid the embarrassment of a front-step interview in front of nosy neighbors.
During the interview, I would ask for consent to check their living space. I wanted to assess their living conditions, to see what they were reading, and observe anything else of evidentiary value exposed in plain sight. I cannot recall a time when I was denied consent to search by a subject of a threat case.
Many patrol officers are under a time limit to complete the incident report and check back in service for the next call. They are attempting to throw a blanket on a smoldering fire and move on to the next crisis. Authorities have not yet disclosed what information the officers were provided when they were dispatched.
Rodgers wrote, “If they had demanded to search my room… That would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over. When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me. It was so scary. If that was the case, the police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can’t imagine a hell darker than that. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but it was so close.”
His paranoia increased after the police’s visit. He wrote, “All it takes is for one person to call the police and tell them that they think I’m going to perpetrate a shooting, and the police will be coming to my door again, demanding to search my room. For the next few days, I felt extremely fearful that they could show up anytime. I kept one of my handguns with a few loaded magazines near me just in case such a thing did happen.
If they did show up, I would have to try to quickly shoot them all and escape out the back window. I would then have to perform a hasty mockery of my plans, with the police on my tail. That will ruin everything. Thankfully, all suspicion of me was dropped after I took down the videos from YouTube, and the police never came back.”
His well-thought-out plan involved using edged weapons to behead his roommates. He would continue by saving his brother from his fate by killing him and his stepmother. Using the family SUV as a 4,500-pound assault weapon, he planned to plow through Santa Barbara pedestrians.
Rodger has been stalking the Alpha Phi sorority for a year. He planned to gain entrance, kill the occupants, and burn the sorority residence. Fortunately, no one answered the door. Ultimately, he planned to commit suicide using a cocktail of pills, liquor, and simultaneous discharge of two firearms.
“During the last few weeks of my life, I continued my daily adventures around town, trying to experience as much of the world as I could before I die.” In 39% of Active Shooter cases, the suspect commits suicide. In a Secret Service study of individuals involved in targeted violence, two thirds had previous suicidal thoughts.
Rodger’s 10-minute rampage ended at his own hands after brief exchange of gunfire with police. Once more, we have failed to recognize the warning signs of an individual who wanted to put an exclamation mark next to his worthless name, while exacting revenge on society, and using the platform of the social media and the news media to project his message.
Mike Roche has spent over three decades in law enforcement. He began his career in 1989 with the Little Rock Police Department. He retired from the U.S. Secret Service after 22 years. Mike is a former adjunct instructor at St. Leo University teaching Behavioral Threat Assessments of Mass Killers. He is a consultant and speaker on the topic of mass killers and interviewing. He is the author of nonfiction works, Mass Killers: How You Can Identify Workplace, School and Public Killers Before They Strike and also Face 2 Face: Observation, Interviewing and Rapport Building Skills: an Ex-Secret Service Agent’s Guide. He is also the author of three works of crime fiction.