UCSB Shooter's Dad Speaks Out, Vows to Do What He Can to Help Prevent Future Killings
byKaitlin StanfordJun 30, 2014
In the month since the shocking murders in Isla Vista, California — where six people were shot dead, 13 were injured, and the shooter, Elliot Rodgers, took his own life — there have been many tears shed, countless heated discussions over the topic of gun violence and one overriding question hanging over it all: How could this have been prevented?
It's often the grieving families of the victims who we see stepping forward to try and answer that question. While struggling to both mourn their loss and honor their child's memory, they form organizations, launch funds and give speeches to raise awareness. But rare is it that we see the parents of the shooter stepping forward in the same way. Of course, it's easy to understand why, when their shock and sadness is further complicated by shame and internal conflict over how exactly you mourn a child who inflicted so much pain on others. But in a few ways, this case breaks that mold.
Sitting down with Barbara Walters last week, Peter Rodger opened up about his son, as well as his own shock and anguish over what happened that terrible night at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While he admitted that in hindsight, there were probably several signs that he missed about Elliot's condition, he insists that his son largely hid his mental illness from both of his parents.
"This is the horror story, this is the American horror story, or the world's horror story," Rodger said to 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."
"My duty now is to do as much as I can to try and stop this from happening again," Rodger continued in the letter. "It will be a long journey involving the personal choices of individuals and families, public discussions, mental health reforms, a change in the culture — you name it. My sincere hope is that I can help by telling my story."
As he shared with Walters on '20/20', he currently feels like he's living in a "reverse nightmare," enjoying happy dreams while he's asleep and waking each morning to the terrible reality of what his son has done. He admitted that it's been "very hard" to mourn his son after knowing what he has done, but is actively trying to replace the anger he feels "with love and forgiveness."
It hasn't been easy, though. "At the same time, I'm also haunted by the pain and suffering and the terrorizing that this sick human being did to others," Rodger said. "And I have to live with that for the rest of my life."