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May 26, 2014

Sheriffs never saw menacing videos before rampage

GOLETA, Calif. (AP) — The threats of suicide and violence captured in Elliott Rodger’s online videos were unsettling, even terrifying.

In one, he stares icily into the camera, despairs over his hollow romantic life, then delivers a dark promise: “That’s a problem that I intend to rectify. I, in all my magnificence and power, I will not let this fly.”

His parents said they were so concerned that they called police. Officers who showed up at Rodger’s doorstep for a mental health check in April, however, found a well-mannered if shy young man that they concluded posed no risk.

They hadn’t seen the videos, and by the time law enforcement had, it was too late: Rodger had gone on a deadly rampage.

The sheriff’s office “was not aware of any videos until after the shooting rampage occurred,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

Sheriff Bill Brown has defended the officers’ actions, but the case highlights the challenges that police face in assessing the mental health of adults, particularly those with no history of violent breakdowns, institutionalizations or serious crimes.

“Obviously, looking back on this, it’s a very tragic situation and we certainly wish that we could turn the clock back and maybe change some things,” Brown told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“At the time deputies interacted with him, he was able to convince them that he was OK,” he said.

It’s not clear why the sheriffs did not become aware of the videos. Attorney Alan Shifman said the Rodger family had called police after being alarmed by YouTube videos “regarding suicide and the killing of people” that Elliot Rodger had been posting.

Doris A. Fuller, executive director of the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center, said California law has provisions that permit emergency psychiatric evaluations of individuals who pose a serious threat, but that was never triggered.

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