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May 25, 2014

Deputies never saw menacing videos before Santa Barbara rampage

GOLETA, Calif. —

Sheriff's deputies who showed up at Elliot Rodger's doorstep last month to check on his mental health hadn't seen online videos in which he threatens suicide and violence even though those recordings were what prompted his parents to call authorities.

By the time law enforcement did see the videos, it was too late: The well-mannered if shy young man that deputies concluded after their visit posed no risk had gone on a deadly rampage on Friday.

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 deputies 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 their son 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.

Rodger's family has disclosed their son was under the care of therapists.

"Once again, we are grieving over deaths and devastation caused by a young man who was sending up red flags for danger that failed to produce intervention in time to avert tragedy," Fuller said in a statement.

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