Prayers for the victims of US killing spree

Thousands of students have come together for a vigil in memory of six people killed in a gun and knife rampage by British-born Elliot Rodger in California.

Two students comfort each other during a candlelight vigil held to honour the victims (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Many of the estimated 3,000 gatherers at the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus held candles during the emotional event as the community mourned the victims of the 22-year-old’s killing spree.

A further 13 people were injured during the frenzy on Friday night, including four Rodger ran down and eight who were shot. Seven people remain in hospital, two in a serious condition.

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Described by police as “premeditated mass murder”, Rodger carried out the killings in Santa Barbara at 9.30pm local time on Friday night. The spree was ended when Rodger, who had Asperger’s syndrome, apparently shot himself in his car following two gun battles with police in the town of Isla Vista.

Sheriff Bill Brown said the student, and son of Hollywood film-maker Peter Rodger, stabbed three men to death in his apartment before shooting dead three more people. Among the dead were two women, aged 19 and 22, who were gunned down outside a university sorority house and a male student, shot dead in a delicatessen.

Rodger posted videos and blog entries claiming he would carry out the killings because he was a virgin and had never kissed a girl. On his blog, he said he was born in the UK and moved to the United States when he was five.

A video posted hours before the killings outlined his plans. It showed Rodger sat in his car, saying: “For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me. All you popular kids, you’ve never accepted me and now you’ll pay for it. I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male.”

His father, Peter Rodger, was educated in Maidstone, Kent, and was assistant director on 2012 blockbuster The Hunger Games. The family’s lawyer, Alan Shifman, said they called police weeks ago after being alarmed that he had uploaded several YouTube videos “regarding suicide and the killing of people”.

Police interviewed him at his home but found him to be a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human”, Mr Shifman said. It was the third time that officers had come into contact with Rodger in the last year, including in January when he performed a citizen’s arrest on his roommate for stealing a candle.

Since the killings police have found a 141-page ‘manifesto’ outlining his plans and talking of how he narrowly evaded being found out when police knocked on his door.

Mr Shifman said Rodger had received help from “multiple therapists” and described Friday’s events as a tragedy of “immense consequences”. The Rodger family was co-operating fully with police, he added.

The shootings began when Rodger opened fire at random as he drove around the beach community near the University of California campus. According to Mr Brown it became “a chaotic, rapidly unfolding and convoluted incident” across 10 separate locations as the Santa Barbara City College student shot pedestrians, ran over two cyclists and exchanged gunfire with police officers before crashing his black BMW into a parked car.

Rodger was found shot in the head in what was believed to be suicide. Three 9mm semi-automatic guns were found in his car and more than 400 rounds of unused ammunition.

Mr Brown said he had “no doubt there would have been further loss of life” if police had not intervened.

Among the victims was 20-year-old student Christopher Michael-Martinez, who was shot dead inside a deli. His room-mate tried to revive him but he died at the scene.

His father Richard Martinez told reporters: “Chris was a really great kid, ask anyone who knew him. His death has left our family lost and broken.”

He blamed irresponsible gun laws for the tragedy, adding: “They talk about gun rights, what about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness, we don’t have to live like this’. Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, ‘Not one more’.”