Peter Rodger, father of the UC Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger, spoke to Barbara Walters about living with the aftermath of his son’s mass murder and suicide. The program airs Friday night.
On May 23, Rodger killed six people and injured 13 more near the UC campus after uploading chilling YouTube videos describing his forthcoming “retribution” to the women who didn’t date him. According to ABC News, Rodger also emailed an 137 page letter entitled My Twisted World to his parents, life coach and others that day, parsing his family issues, problems wooing a girlfriend and his hatred of women, minorities and interracial couples — despite being biracial himself.
"I just went to the YouTube page and saw, the retribution video," he said with a sigh. Watching his son say such terrible things, Peter Rodger said he remembers a wave of darkness washing over him. "A really dark force of horrible energy hit me."
Rodger says that he remembers his son as a happy child but also the missed moments where the UCSB horror might’ve been avoided. For example, when his mother called the police on young Rodger but he convinced authorities that his online hate rants were harmless, though he had three semiautomatic weapons hidden away. Mr. Rodger is now a supporter of stricter gun checks when police are called to situations like that of his late son.
"If they did do a gun check, they would know that Elliot had bought three automatic weapons. They would have the right to seize him for 24 hours, and his whole scheme would've been over and thwarted," he said in an exclusive interview with ABC's Barbara Walters.
Born in London to a white father and Malaysian mother, Elliot was a happy kid who laughed all the time, says his father. Then the family who also welcomed a baby girl moved to California. After a string of happy years, the couple divorced when Elliot was seven. Years later, Mr. Rodger remarried a Moroccan actress and Elliot began therapy.
Elliot had a hard time making friends at school but his issues weren’t “overly worrisome” where he’d be “a threat to himself or others.” His parents moved him from school to school, trying to help him find a niche. They thought he might have mild Asperger’s but it was never confirmed. Meanwhile, Elliot’s anger was blossoming behind his youthful face.
"My little 9-year-old self realized that there were hierarchies, that some people were better than others. Jealousy and envy…those are two feelings that would dominate my entire life and bring me immense pain," Elliot wrote in his journal.
But Mr. Rodgerssays his son hid those emotions well and as a teen he hid behind video games like World of Warcraft. He was bullied in high school and went through two before graduating from the small Independence High. Still, he couldn’t woo a girlfriend and that infuriated him.
"Finding out about sex is one of the things that truly destroyed my entire life. Sex, the very word fills me with hate," Elliot would write in his journal. "I would always covet it, I would always fantasize about it. But I would never get it."
His father assured him that one day he’d find the girl for him but he didn’t know what was building inside of his child. By 18, Elliot was furious and began plotting his “retribution” as early as his first day at college.
"It was only when I first moved to Santa Barbara that I started considering the possibility of having to carry out a violent act of revenge, as the final solution to dealing with all the injustices I've had to face at the hands of women and society."
Ultimately, Mr. Rodger, who has met with some of Elliot’s victims privately, seems like a very confused man trying to make sense of a tragedy created by someone so close to him. He said that after he read his son's journal he "had a lot of anger for him," but now he's just trying to find forgiveness.
Image via ABC News.