Crime & Justice

Isla Vista Massacre: Did sheriff's deputies miss their chance to stop Rodger?

A crime scene investigator emerges from Elliot Rodger's apartment near UC Santa Barbara.
A crime scene investigator emerges from Elliot Rodger's apartment near UC Santa Barbara.
Frank Stoltze/ KPCC

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Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies went to Elliot Rodger's Isla Vista apartment April 30, just weeks before his deadly rampage on Friday that killed six UCSB students. Deputies visited his residence after receiving a request from an unidentified family member, according to Sheriff Bob Brown.  

RELATED: Isla Vista shootings: What we know about alleged shooter Elliot Rodger
Deputies spoke with Rodger but didn't think he qualified for a 5150 (pronounced fifty-one-fifty) hold, which allows law enforcement officials to involuntarily detain someone in a psychiatric facility for 72 hours. It is named after the section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code 

"He was courteous and polite, he appeared timid, and shy, he did not meet the criteria for 5150 of the welfare institutions code which is what would authorize him being held temporarily for an examination." said Brown.

RELATED: Isla Vista shootings: Victim's father: 'She was everybody's daughter'

CarolAnn Peterson teaches social work at USC. She says officers ask basic questions about how the person is doing to make their assessment.
"They're looking for body language, they're looking for how you look at the officer," Peterson said.  "[Taking note] if I'm kinda looking down or I'm looking at other directions. But if I'm looking directly at you— I'm answering the questions, I seem very calm, nothing seems out of the ordinary —  law enforcement may not think that there's a problem." 

RELATED: Isla Vista shootings: Killings near UC Santa Barbara reminiscent of 2001 murders

But some mental health advocates say not all law enforcement officers are properly trained in how to make those calls. 

"Waiting for danger means the danger can lead to horrendous tragedy as we have seen over and over again." said Carla Jacobs, a board member at the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center.

 The Santa Barbara County Sheriff did not respond to a request to discuss the training deputies receive – though the office did confirm that the April welfare call is under investigation.