Friday, May 30, 2014

Mental-Health Lessons Emerge from Isla Vista Slayings. By Kate Pickert

Police missed an opportunity to thwart Elliot Rodger’s plans before he killed six people

(TimeWhen a mad man goes on a killing spree, a few questions immediately bubble to the surface. Who’s to blame? What should we do now? Could this have been prevented?

In the case of Elliot Rodger, who police say killed six people and himself in Isla Vista, Calif., on May 23, there are no definitive answers to any of these questions — at least not yet. But what’s clear is that a few weeks earlier, police missed an opportunity to thwart Rodger’s plans.

On April 30, deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction in Isla Vista, visited Rodgers at his home to assess his mental state. They had been indirectly summoned there by Rodger’s mother. Reportedly disturbed by videos her son had posted on YouTube, she called a therapist who had been treating him, who called a mental-health hotline, which contacted the authorities. The deputies interviewed Rodger and determined that he was shy, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown — but polite and did not pose a risk to himself or others. Absent that, they had no legal right to take him into custody. They urged him to call his mother and they left.

In a departing manifesto, Rodger wrote of the April 30 encounter: “For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over. When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me.”

As became painfully clear weeks later, Rodger posed a grave threat. He had recently purchased several guns, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. And he had been plotting for several years to exact revenge on “humanity” — particularly women — for rejecting him socially, according to a final YouTube video and a manifesto he wrote before stabbing his two roommates and another man to death and then fatally shooting three others. He wounded 13 more.

A spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara Sheriff has said the department was not aware of Rodger’s YouTube posts until after he went on his killing spree. If they had been, it’s possible the outcome might have been different. “They should have definitely been made aware of those videos in my opinion,” says Kenton Rainey, chief of police for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco and a board member at the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) in California. “It would have been impossible for them to make an informed assessment without those.” ... ► Read the full article Kate Pickert in TIME

Source: TIMEMay 27, 2014.

Author: Kate Pickert is a staff writer for TIME. She writes about health care and previously worked for New York magazine. She is a graduate of the University at Buffalo and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism ... more

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