LOS ANGELES — A tearful mother of a college student slain in a rampage outside Santa Barbara last year said Tuesday that she and the parents of the first victims sued the county sheriff and other parties to prevent future tragedies.
Kelly Wang choked up at a Los Angeles news conference as she described the difficult decision to file suit Monday in federal court against the county, the Santa Barbara sheriff and the apartments where her son and his two friends were slain.
Elliot Rodger, 22, stabbed his two roommates and their friend, Wang's son, George Chen, in the Capri Apartments before going on a shooting rampage in which he killed three more University of California, Santa Barbara, students and injured 14 other people before killing himself as police pursued him.
The lawsuit said the apartment management company and the Sheriff's Department were negligent because they knew ignored numerous warning signs that Rodger was violent and unstable.
Wang painted a metaphor of Santa Barbara as a beautiful, peaceful pasture where innocent lambs are in jeopardy because security procedures are outdated.
"As the mother of a lost lamb, the fence must be mended so no more innocent lambs will fall victim to future evil wolves," she said as she wiped her eyes with tissues. "Please fix the fence before one more lamb is lost and before another mother has to sit here and do the plea as I do. The purpose of this legal case is to fix the fence."
Wang spoke on behalf of the three families, saying she was the only mother well enough to do so and that they all wished they could have laid down their lives for their children.
Rodger's first three victims were roommates, David Wang and James Hong, and Chen who was visiting. Each was stabbed numerous times with a nearly 9-inch boar-hunting knife.
The lawsuit contends that authorities, and the apartment building and its owners, Asset Campus Housing, a Texas-based company that provides student housing around the nation, failed to check Rodger's online postings in which he spouted venomous comments about women and others and bemoaned his virginity.
After Rodger killed himself, police found three semi-automatic handguns and nearly 550 unspent rounds in his car. All were purchased legally.
The suit said that after Rodger moved into the Capri complex in 2011, he insulted and clashed with a string of roommates and exhibited bizarre behavior, yet the apartment owners failed to conduct reasonable background checks before assigning Hong and Wang as his roommates. The suit also says the complex failed to warn them that "Rodger had had serious conflicts with his previous roommates and was not only racist but also potentially violent and dangerous."
It also contends that the county and its Sheriff's Department violated the victims' rights to due process by ignoring repeated "red flags" that Rodger was violent and unstable, even after a mental health worker saw YouTube videos that Rodger had posted and contacted authorities to say that Rodger appeared to be a danger to himself and others.
The Sheriff's Department said in a statement that it could not comment on pending litigation "and anything we might say in response would be insufficient when measured against the grief suffered by the families of those killed so tragically."
Messages seeking comment from representatives of the county were not immediately returned. The offices of Capri and Asset Campus Housing were closed and messages could not be left there seeking comment.