Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Last night, the father of Elliot Rodger — the 22-year-old who went on a killing spree last month near UC Santa Barbara — was interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20.
During the interview, Peter Rodger paints a picture of his son that makes sense only now that it's finished, describing a shy child who was bullied, a withdrawn teen who couldn't get a date, and an angry young outcast who ultimately hatched a plan for twisted revenge.
While the hyper-vision of hindsight allows us all to think of what Elliot's parents, his therapists, and the police could've done differently to prevent this horror, the real crux of the issue that Peter Rodger — and really everyone — is trying to figure out is how can we tell when a child is that troubled? What are the warning signs? How do you spot a killer before he takes action?
It's these questions that drove Rodger to become the first parent of a mass shooter to sit for a televised interview. "This is the horror story, this is the American horror story, or the world's horror story," he told Walters. "It is when you have somebody who on the outside is one thing, and on the inside is something completely different and you don't see it."
Lots of children are shy, lots of teens are withdrawn, and plenty of adults never really fit in. Almost none of them kill. Yet, even though Elliot had been in therapy since he was a kid, he was never formally diagnosed with anything. But, even if he had been deemed autistic or OCD like his father suspected, it probably wouldn't have sounded alarm bells loud enough to be taken seriously.
A major diagnosis, one with some sort of psychosis, might have been enough to stop him from buying guns in California, but even that is a big might. While the state does require mental health checks for firearm purchases, only the most severe cases are denied. Elliot would've had to express intent to hurt someone, and if there was one thing he was good at, it was convincing alarmed parties to lower their red flags.
In the months leading up to the rampage, Elliot had tried to push several women off a 10-foot ledge after they ignored him at a party; however, he told his father a very different version of the story -- one in which he was the victim, the bullied. And, just one month before the shooting, Elliot's mother found his disturbing YouTube account, filled with videos of him describing his increasingly demented views toward women and violent thoughts.
She notified the police, who made a welfare check on the younger Rodger and determined everything to be copacetic. However, had they entered his apartment, searched his room, and found his guns, the whole plot would've unraveled. At least that's what a relieved Elliot wrote in the 137-page manifesto he sent to his parents, life coach, and several others on the night of his killing spree.
And, for whatever you think about Peter Rodger and his decision to speak out, you can't deny he has a point. This is not his problem or a youth problem or even a parenting problem. It's sort of a gun problem, but even still, it's bigger than that. Until we can understand what it is, where it starts, and how it stops, it's going to continue to happen. (ABC News)