SANTA BARBARA, California — A 22-year-old gunman killed six people before taking his own life in a rampage that began in his apartment and cascaded across a California college town, shortly after he posted a threatening video railing against women, police said on Saturday.
Elliot Rodger, the son of a Hollywood director, stabbed three people to death in his apartment on Friday night before gunning down three more victims in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
A killing spree, in which Rodger opened fire on bystanders as he terrorized Isla Vista in his car and on foot, ended when he took his life after a shootout with sheriff’s deputies, police said. Authorities found three guns that Rodger had legally purchased and more than 400 rounds of unspent ammunition in his car.
In a threatening YouTube video, a young man presumed by police to be Rodger bitterly complains of loneliness and rejection by women and lays out plans to kill those he believes spurned him.
“It’s obviously the work of a madman,” Sheriff Bill Brown told a news conference about the rampage, adding it was “very, very apparent he was severely mentally disturbed.”
Witnesses reported seeing someone driving a black BMW through the streets and shooting at people in the beachside community where many college students live. At least 13 people were wounded, including eight who were shot.
Brown said his department had three times been in contact with Rodger prior to the killings, including once after a family member asked them to check on his welfare last month. Deputies interviewed Rodger but found him to be polite and courteous and took no further action, Brown said.
Rodger had previously gone to authorities earlier in the year to report a roommate had stolen some candles, and last year reported he was the victim of an assault. Authorities said they later suspected he may have been the aggressor.
“We offer our deepest, compassionate sympathy to the families involved in this terrible tragedy,” lawyer Alan Shifman told reporters outside the family home in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, reading from a prepared statement on behalf of the family.
“We are experiencing the most inconceivable pain and our hearts go out to everyone involved,” he added. Rodger is the son of Peter Rodger, an assistant director on the 2012 film “The Hunger Games.”
The YouTube video police were studying shows a young man who identified himself as Elliot Rodger pouring out his hatred of women who have rejected him and “popular kids,” and threatening to kill people out of loneliness and sexual frustration.
“You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime,” he said in the video, his speech punctuated by bursts of laughter.
The video appeared to have been uploaded to YouTube on Friday night, shortly before the shooting. “It would appear that is connected,” Brown said.
YouTube has since removed the clip, saying videos threatening violence are against its guidelines and are removed when flagged.
Among the dead in the rampage were at least three college students, including two women gunned down as they stood outside a sorority and a man shot and killed in a delicatessen, Brown said. Three more men were stabbed to death in Rodger’s apartment, but their identities were not released.
Richard Martinez told reporters that his 20-year-old son Christopher, an English major who wanted to go to law school, was the victim killed at the deli.
“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA,” an emotional Martinez told reporters outside the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’ right to live? When will this insanity stop?”
Robert Johnson, a 21-year-old UCSB student, said he first noticed trouble after a car drove past him at a busy Isla Vista intersection and he then heard “popping noises” that he originally mistook for firecrackers or the car backfiring.
“Then the sound came again, and by that point it had pulled up in front of a convenience store deli, and someone in the car was firing into a crowd of about eight, 10 people that were gathered in front of the store,” he said.
“Everyone that was being fired upon, they all jumped and scrambled to run inside the store,” he said.
The car had darkly tinted windows and the occupant was not visible, Johnson said.
College student Brad Martin told a UCSB student newspaper that his girlfriend was “absolutely hysterical” after being approached by the gunman with a weapon she initially was not sure was real.
“She said the next second he raised it up to her face … and she turned around and started running,” Martin told the Daily Nexus. “That’s when she heard ‘bang, bang, bang’ right behind her as she was running.”
University of California President Janet Napolitano, formerly U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, said she was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the shooting near the campus.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy, their families and the entire Santa Barbara community,” she said in a statement.
The incident was the latest mass shooting in the United States, where schools, shopping malls and military bases have been scenes of such crimes.
Last month, a gunman killed three people and himself at the Fort Hood U.S. Army base in Texas, where another gunman killed 13 people in 2009.
In December 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, six months after a gunman killed 14 people in a Colorado movie theater.
The deadliest U.S. mass shooting in modern times was in 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people in a shooting spree.
Some 23,000 people live in Isla Vista. Many are students at UCSB, which has an enrollment of about 22,000, or at Santa Barbara City College.