Santa Barbara Shooter's Dad Working to Stop Another Massacre, 'Haunted' By Son's Two Personas
The father of Santa Barbara shooting suspect Elliot Rodger wants to make sure a massacre like the one carried out by his son, which left seven people dead — including Elliot — and 13 injured, doesn't happen again.
Recalling how the police had checked on Elliot a month before his rampage, when the cops left after Elliot said they had nothing to worry about, Peter Rodger now wants the law changed so that gun checks are required on these police calls.
"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," Peter said in an interview with Barbara Walters set to air on Friday's 20/20, according to an article posted on ABC News' website Friday morning.
In an open letter also posted on ABC News' website, Peter talks in further detail about the change he hopes to create, saying he feels it's his "duty" to stop another shooting from happening.
"I tried my best to do my duty as a father, but obviously my best was not enough. My duty now is to do as much as I can to try and stop this from happening again. Too many lives are being lost," Peter writes. "We have to try and stop this. 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."
Peter told Walters that he's speaking out about his son's behavior to try to help others who may have family members with mental illness. He's even created a website, AskForHelp.org, with resources on mental illness and space for others to share their stories.
"My simple message is: If in doubt about a family member, please ask for help," Peter writes.
In another clip from their two-hour sit-down that was shown on Friday's Good Morning America, where Walters appeared to discuss her interview, Peter said: "The only reason I'm here is to tell his story to try and stop this from happening again."
Speaking to Walters, The Hunger Games second-unit director also relived the night of Elliot's massacre, recounting the frantic attempts he, his wife and ex-wife (Elliot's mother) made to reach Elliot.
As has been previously reported, Peter received a desperate phone call from Elliot's mother, Li Chin, the night of the massacre after she received Elliot's manifesto and saw his retribution video.
Peter told Walters after he watched his son's video, "A really dark force of horrible energy hit me."
Li Chin, Peter and his wife, Soumaya Akaaboune, a Moroccan actress who appeared in the movie Green Zone, raced to Elliot's apartment in Isla Vista, Calif. Peter said he just wanted to get to his son, hold him and make him understand reason.
"I didn't know what he was doing," his father said. "I just wanted to go and find him … and talk to him — do something, you know? — hold him, talk reason."
As they got closer, they saw reports of the shooting on their phone and Peter kept frantically redialing Elliot's number trying to reach him. Police prevented them from going into Elliot's neighborhood, making them wait in the parking lot of a nearby Home Depot for details, Peter said. It was there that he learned his son was dead.
"I'll remember this forever, the rest of my life," Peter said. "The way [the sheriff] just looked me in the eye, and he said, 'We've found a deceased person, and we found a license in his pocket that fits your son's description.' "
It wasn't until 4:35 a.m. the next morning, Peter said, when he went online, that he realized his son was also the killer.
Peter also shared what Elliot was like growing up.
"Elliot was far from evil. Something happened to him," Peter said. "He was the most beautiful, kind, sweetheart of a boy. … He was adorable. And he would laugh so much that sometimes we were worried he would choke."
"If he were sitting here right now, you would think, 'What a polite boy he was,'" Peter added. "But yet, he had this thing going on inside of him. I think that his mind was taken over by a disease."
Peter added that Elliot had a "certain OCD" about him, putting his plate in the same place at the dinner table and wearing the same clothes. And while Peter was aware of his son's frustration with women, he didn't see anything that he thought made Elliot dangerous.
"[Elliot's problems] weren't things that I would consider overly worrisome — or that he would ever be a threat to himself or he would be a threat to other people," his father said.
Peter also revealed that his son had a knack for concealing the truth.
"He was such a good liar," his dad said. "He was such an incredible liar."
Ultimately, Peter said he still can't comprehend how his son could be essentially two different people, and he expects to be "haunted" by that for years.
"I don't understand it. I can't wrap my head around it. It will haunt me, haunt me for the rest of my life," he said.
When asked whether Peter wishes his son had never been born, a sentiment that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza's father has expressed, Peter says it's "a loaded question," but "part of me says yes, and the reason is because he did a lot of harm to young men and young women who didn't deserve to die."
Elliot's mother declined to discuss her son or the tragedy, releasing the following statement to ABC News: "I feel the world's attention should be focused on the victims' loved ones and remembering the beautiful lives that were so tragically lost."
Walters also appeared on The View, for the first time as a guest since she retired as co-host on May 16, to discuss her sit-down with Peter — which marks the first time a parent of a mass shooter has spoken out — and how it came about. She explained that she was sitting at a lake near Berlin, where she was on vacation with her friend Cindy Adams, and ABC News president James Goldston called her and said Peter only wanted to tell his story to her.
In two clips shown on The View, Peter elaborated on his son's duality and frustrations with women.
"I saw one human being who would be kind and sweet and smart and take my 9-year-old son out and buy him presents and this — two totally different human beings. One so hidden, so dark, so malevolent, so unbelievably heinous that I don't even recognize my son Elliot in those writings," Peter says of the persona reflected in Elliot's manifesto. "It pains me beyond belief. It's haunting. It is the most distressing thing anybody could ever read."
When asked if he thought Elliot was ill, Peter says he didn't.
"I just thought he was a disillusioned, aloof, shy young man that needed as much love as we could give, and you know he wasn't easy because he would suck the oxygen out of the room — because he was always obsessive about [not finding a girlfriend]. I didn't equate that with hate, I didn't equate that with misogyny, I just equated that with a young man that needed to find his way."
Watch Walters' appearance on GMA below.