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Killer Left Manifesto; California Murders; Gun Debate; Men, Mental Health, Guns and the California Spree Shooter; Obama Lays Wreath at Tomb of Unknowns; Hagel Addresses VA Controversy

Aired May 26, 2014 - 12:00   ET



ELLIOT RODGER, SHOOTER: Every single spoiled stuck-up blonde (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I see --


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The threats, the manifesto, the warning signs. Investigators even came to his home last month. So could the Santa Barbara killer been stopped?

Also this hour --


CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DENFESE: It makes me sick to my stomach.


BROWN: America's defense secretary reacts to the insufferable delays in treating sick and dying veterans, as the nation pauses honors all those who fought for their country on this Memorial Day.

Hello, everyone, I'm Pamela Brown, in for Ashleigh Banfield. It is Monday, May 26th. Thank you so much for being here with us on this Memorial Day. You are watching LEGAL VIEW.

And it was one of the man - it is one man's twisted world and now dozens of people, innocent victims and their families, are tangled in it. Elliot Rodger was set on hurting as many people as possible in his day of retribution. He stabled three people to death in his apartment before setting off on a shooting spree in the college town of Isla Vista, California. He killed three more people before killing himself. And he detailed his plans in a chilling manifesto and on a YouTube video. This hour, we'll take a look at his mental state. What drove him to commit this gruesome act? But, first, here's a look into his disturbing mind through his own words.


RODGER: Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day in which I will have my revenge against humanity, against all of you.

BROWN (voice-over): This chilling video shows Elliot Rodger, the 22- year-old Santa Barbara College student who police say killed six and injured 13 in Friday's mass shooting and stabbing spree. This day of retribution, a plan Rodger outlined in a 137-page manifesto obtained by CNN affiliate KEYT. Rodger wrote, "all of those beautiful girls I've desired so much in my life but can never have because they despise and loathe me I will destroy."

A family friend, Simon Astaire, says Rodger sent his diatribe called "My Twisted World" to a couple dozen people, including his mother and father, not long before terrorizing the UC Santa Barbara campus. He wrote, "I will kill them all and make them suffer, just as they have made me suffer. It is only fair."

Rodger's mother, Chin (ph), discovered the terrifying threat in her e- mail at 9:17 that evening. She then discovered her son's last YouTube video titled "retribution."

RODGER: And I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I see inside there.

BROWN: Chin then called Rodger's father and 911. The parents frantically racing to Santa Barbara from L.A. Both parents en route when they heard the news.

POLICE SCANNER: Shots fired. Shots fired.

BROWN: That they were too late.

POLICE SCANNER: According to a witness, there was a dark colored BMW, one occupant, a male wearing a white shirt.

BROWN: On Sunday, the ATF and county sheriff's office searched the mother's home. Astaire says Rodgers parents now feel a, quote, "pivotal moment" was missed last month. Six police officers conducted a well-being check on Rodger in April after his mother discovered other videos he posted online documenting his, quote, "loneliness and misery." But the officers say they found nothing alarming during their check.

In his manifesto, Rodger expresses his devastating fear that police discovered his plan. "I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can't imagine a hell darker than that," he wrote.

Astaire says Rodger has been visiting therapists on and off since he was eight and in high school practically daily. Right before his killing spree, Rodger was seeing two therapists. Astaire describing him as reserved to a daunting degree. But Astaire also says the 22- year-old didn't appear to have violent tendencies and never expressed any fascination in guns.


BROWN: So could this all have been prevented if certain warning signs were looked at in a different way? For more on that, I'm joined now by CNN legal analyst Paul Callan in New York and James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University. He's also the author of "Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murders."

Thank you so much both for being here with us on this Memorial Day.

Paul, I want to start with you. We've talked about this over the phone and, you know, police went to Elliot Rodger's house, they checked in on him in April. He wrote about it in his manifesto, saying if they searched his room and found his guns, his plans might have been foiled. So, Paul, what are police allowed to do on those welfare checks? Could they have done more when that flag was raised a month ago?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to say, Pamela, based on what we know now. There will be a lot more information coming up. But here's the bottom line on it, and the law, by the way, is the same in most states. If there's evidence to believe that you're a threat to yourself or others, you can be brought to a psychiatric facility for an inpatient evaluation. And the question is, did he meet that standard?

To answer that, we have to know what did the police know when they went to his apartment. Now, they're saying they didn't know a whole lot and he acted in a totally normal way. So they wouldn't have the right to search his apartment.

But what it suggests to me is, we need our police officers doing social media checks, particularly on young people, when they go on these visits, because that's where they're posting the revealing items about their personal life and particularly if they're disturbed in some way. I'm just wondering if that had been done here, whether maybe we'd have a different outcome in California.

BROWN: And part of what made this probably so difficult for police, James, is that Elliot Rodger was able to fool them when they checked on him. He was able to convince them that he was OK. In a case like this, when someone is so good at masking their mental health issues, how can police and health professionals se through that because there are other people out there, just like Elliot Rodger. What signs should these officials look for?

JAMES ALAN FOX, PROF. OF CRIMINOLOGY, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Well, the problem is, there's no telltale warning signs. We talk about red flags, but there are really only yellow flags that turn red only after the blood is spilled. We have the benefit of hindsight, 20/20 hindsight is perfect. And at this point, we're looking for all the people who perhaps missed an opportunity, who didn't do what they should have done. This is a common scapegoating effort, but it's -- it's misinformed. There's no way that they could have anticipated what he was about to do.

CALLAN: And, Pam, can I just jump in on this also? One - you know --

BROWN: Sure. Go for it.

CALLAN: The complexity of this is much greater than is even being reported. You know, one of the things I do, I represent psychiatrists when they get sued. Do you know what they get sued for? They get sued for admitting people to psychiatric facilities without adequate grounds. And they get sued for not admitting people. So you have to be very careful when you're going to lock somebody up in a psychiatric facility. It's very easy, of course, now to look back, as Professor Fox says, and say he should have been locked up, but it's a more complex question than it appears.

BROWN: Absolutely, it is. And what does it tell you, in light of that, Paul, that apparently it was the therapist who ended up contacting this mental health hot line, who then contacted police. How common is it for a therapist to get involved to that extent? I would think that means it was pretty serious.

CALLAN: Yes. And I know from representing psychiatrists, they take the patient privilege very, very seriously. I mean, after all, the psychiatric patients think their therapist is going to be calling the police based on something said in a session, they lose the confidence that they have in the therapist. So therapist will only do this when they think there's a serious threat. So we've got to find out what that therapist knew when he made the call.

FOX: And when they made the call. Let's keep a --

BROWN: And adding to all these --

FOX: Let's keep in mind there --

BROWN: Go ahead.

FOX: His therapist did not think that he was violent. And this is a consistent situation. We've looked back at Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooting. His therapist didn't think he was violent. It's very difficult to predict violence of this extreme form. And we'd like to believe that we could collect all the data, all the evidence and be able to identify mass murderers before they act but we simply can't do it.

The only consolation here is that this is a rare event and that makes it more difficult to predict. You know, there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people who look very much and act very much and sound very much like this shooter, yet they don't go on a rampage. There's absolutely -

CALLAN: And, you know -

FOX: It's like needles in haystacks. It's very big haystack and very few needles.

BROWN: Yes. And you have to be so careful and not to stigmatize people with mental health issues. And it's really a fine line for police to walk as well.

Paul Callan, James Alan Fox, so much more to discuss with you and we're going to be talking with you again soon, so be sure to stick around.

And coming up right here on LEGAL VIEW, what drove him to go on a stabbing and shooting spree before taking his own life? Was there anything that could have been done to stop the killer before he cracked? The father of a victim speaks out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have we learned nothing? These things are going to continue until somebody does something. So where the hell is the leadership?


BROWN: Welcome back. I'm Pamela Brown, here in Los Angeles.

And, today, a California community is coming together in the wake of a senseless tragedy to try to cope. And while many are stunned and disgusted by the suspect, people in Isla Vista are focusing on the victims. Ahead of the deadly shooting, Elliot Rodger stabbed three men to death in his apartment, two were his roommates, 20-year-old Cheng Yuan Hong and 19-year-old George Chen, pictured here. The third, 20- year-old Weihan Wang was visiting. And the two sorority girls, 22- year-old Katherine Cooper, who went by Katie. She was studying art history and archaeology at UC Santa Barbara, according to FaceBook, and 19-year-old Veronika Weiss. Her father told the "L.A. Times" she played four sports in high school and she loved math. And 20-year-old Christopher Martinez was killed at a deli in Isla Vista. His father called for stricter gun control in this emotional message.


RICHARD MARTINEZ, FATHER OF VICTIM CHRISTOPHER MARTINEZ: I can't tell you how angry I am. It's just awful. And no parent should have to go through this. No parent. To have a kid die because -- in this kind of a situation. What -- what has changed? Have we learned nothing? These things are going to continue until somebody does something. So where the hell is the leadership?


BROWN: Martinez went on to say lawmakers should have taken action after Sandy Hook, but they didn't, and now his child is lost too.

I'm joined once again by CNN legal analyst Paul Callan and criminologist James Alan Fox.

Paul, a Connecticut lawmaker is renewing his call for tougher gun laws after the shooting spree. We know Elliot Rodger bought his guns legally. And we also know he has a long history of mental health issues. He'd been seeing a therapist since he was eight. If someone like him, who had never been admitted to a psych ward but was clearly very disturbed, he'd been plotting this spree for quite some time, apparently, if someone like him can get a gun, what hope is there to prevent people like who are severally mentally disturbed from buying guns?

CALLAN: Well, I'll tell you, it's frightening, Pamela. It really is. Because with his prior history, you would think there was no way that he would qualify for a gun. But in truth, the gun laws are very, very clear that you have to be a demonstrably mentally defective person -- that's the wording that's used in some of the statutes -- or you have to have been admitted for inpatient treatment psychiatrically. Simply having had some sort of sporadic mental health problem is not enough to prohibit you from getting a gun. And I think you also have to remember here that three of these killings were done with knives as well. So I'm not even sure that the carnage would have been entirely prevented by gun control legislation.

BROWN: All right.

FOX: You know, there is a downside if you start - there's a downside if you start expanding and saying that anyone with mental health problems (INAUDIBLE). What you'll do is you'll discourage people from seeking treatment because that would disqualify them from their right to getting a gun.

BROWN: Exactly.

FOX: And let me say one thing about mental health here. It's great in the aftermath that we talk about access to mental health. But we do -- what reason are we doing it? Is it because we're concerned about the well-being of mentally ill individuals or is it because we're concerned about the well-being of those people they might shoot? So I think we're doing the good thing, but not for the right reason.

CALLAN: And, you know, Pam -

FOX: And we're stigmatizing the whole class of mentally ill in the process.


BROWN: Let me ask you, James, because I admittedly have been torn covering this story

Obviously, when something like this happens, it garners a lot of media attention. On one hand, you have this horrific event that demands coverage, but at the same time, you want to be careful not to give these killers too much attention and the platform they want, because in many cases, it seems, James, that's what these shooters are looking for. Clearly Elliot was looking for attention.

Do you think it could encourage other people out there like Elliot to do the same?

FOX: Well, there is copycatting. We do know that. We saw that in the 1990s with a whole string of school shootings where kids wanted to become famous like their predecessors, so we do have to be careful.

And I think what we should be focusing on is the crime and the victims. The more we talk about every minutiae about the perpetrator, we sometimes turn a monster into a celebrity.

We humanize someone who doesn't deserve it, so we need to draw that important line. Yeah, also understand that most mass murderers don't -- most mass murderers don't -- we need to shed light on their crimes, but not a spotlight on the killers.

Most mass murderers kill for revenge. They're not out for the publicity. That's just a fringe benefit.

BROWN: Let me just ask you this quickly, James, why is it that in all these recent shootings it seems like the majority of the killers are men acting alone?

FOX: Well, most murders are committed by men. Ninety percent of murders are committed by men, but mass murders, it's over 95 percent.

And, acting alone, they tend to be isolated individuals who don't have strong support systems in their lives, and that's part of the reason they go on rampages, because they don't have support.

Plus, they don't have other people around them who know them well enough to see what's going on in their lives. Yes, there are warning signs, but they're just not easy to identify.

BROWN: But so often, it's men and not women in the majority of these shootings. And it's just, you know, it's horrific and -- James Alan Fox, Paul Callan, thank you.

Were you going to say something quickly, Paul?

CALLAN: Yeah, I was. With men doing these crimes, all violent crimes are mostly men.

It's testosterone, it's violent games and violent activities that men participate in, and I think historically it's because men come out of a history of violence.

And it's very, very different than female upbringing and culture, so it doesn't surprise me men are the killers.

FOX: Let's not blame games here.

CALLAN: Ninety-eight percent of serial killers, mass killers --

BROWN: There's so much more to this conversation, guys, and I would love to carry on, but, you know, clearly this discussion will continue. Something needs to be done here.

Thank you so much, James Alan Fox, Paul Callan. Appreciate you coming on today.

CALLAN: Nice being with you, Pam.

BROWN: Coming up this Memorial Day, we're keeping an eye on the veterans health care scandal, lawmakers now calling for a criminal investigation.

Plus, we'll tell you what the defense secretary is saying about the whole situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HAGEL: It makes me sick to my stomach.



BROWN: It is Memorial Day, for many Americans, the unofficial kickoff to summer, much more importantly here, a time for all of us to honor those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who died in service to our country.

Like so many commanders-in-chief before him, President Obama placed a wreath last hour at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

He said America can never forget its debt to military families.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We rededicate ourselves to our sacred obligations to all who wear America's uniform and to the families who stand by them always that our troops will have the resources they need to do their job; that our nation will never stop searching for those who have gone missing or are held as prisoners of war; that, as we've been reminded in recent days, we must do more to keep faith with our veterans and families and ensure they get the care and benefits and opportunities that they've earned and that they deserve.


BROWN: Mr. Obama just returned this morning from a quick trip to Afghanistan, his first there in two years.

Aides say the visit had nothing to do with the growing scandal over wait times and cover-ups at government hospitals. The president never brought it up.

The secretary, Chuck Hagel, has some thoughts on that subject and he shared them with my CNN colleague Jake Tapper in Washington.

Hi there, Jake, good to see you. What did Hagel tell you?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We talked about a lot of topics, Syria, rescuing the girls in Nigeria. The focus of the interview in many ways was of course Memorial Day.

He of course comes to the V.A. story from a very interesting perspective. He is a Vietnam veteran, Secretary Chuck Hagel, and, also, he worked for the V.A. during the Reagan administration and resigned in protest, so I thought he might have a specific reaction, so I asked him about it.


TAPPER: Are you appalled when you see these stories? HAGEL: It makes me sick to my stomach, because it is clear responsibility we have as a country, as a people, to take care of these men and women and their families who sacrificed so much.

I know systems are imperfect. I get that. But when you've got what we do know, and you're right, we need to get the facts, let's see exactly what happened, why it happened, how it happened, then we've got to fix it, then we have to fix it.


TAPPER: Pamela, Secretary Hagel did not, of course, call for the resignation of the Veterans Administration Secretary General Shinseki.

But he did repeat what President Obama said, which is they need to find out what went wrong, and not only fix it, but only then will there be some accountability.

BROWN: Really looking forward to seeing your interview with Secretary Hagel, Jake. Thank you so much.

You can catch the interview today at 4:00 p.m. on "THE LEAD."

I'm joined now from Raleigh, North Carolina, by Jessie Jane Duff, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who now serves on the organized committee of Concerned Veterans for America.

So glad to have you with us. We appreciate you coming on, this memorial day.

JESSIE JANE DUFF, CONCERNED VETERANS OF AMERICA: Thank you so much for inviting me.

BROWN: Absolutely. I want to start here just by asking you what or whom do you blame for veterans waiting months for medical care.

Is it the system, the leaders, both? What do you think?

DUFF: Well, essentially we've seen this is extensive V.A. mismanagement. It's been going on for years. The scandal in Phoenix is one that basically broke the ice open with whistleblowers.

We've seen deaths in medical facilities, five men waiting to get in for colonoscopies who died because the wait times were so long.

Seven hundred veterans were sick with Legionnaire's Disease in Ohio, and there's a lawsuit pending now for one who died who went in for surgery and ended up getting ill and dying.

The executives who have hidden their wait times for long periods of times. We hope that secretary Shinseki resolves this problem.

BROWN: Do you think, because obviously a lot of blame has been put on Shinseki. Some people calling for him to be fired. Do you think that would solve things? DUFF: Well, essentially, my organization did ask for his resignation, but we're at a point now where the president has made it clear he wants to see the results of these investigations, so this is where we're at now.

Let's get this fixed. Let's hold the executives accountable. We've got veterans waiting four months with gangrene, heart disease, brain tumors.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, 19 different facilities have been shown to have these scandals with wait times. The V.A. policy is you have to have 14 days to get signed up for an appointment.

The executives are hiding their wait lists are four months. We've got to get these executives, to be able to fire them, because they're breaking the policies of the V.A.

BROWN: And of course this investigation is still under way. And of course we're waiting to find out the results of that. This a story that has garnered national attention.

You point out that only one percent of Americans serve in the military, Jesse. Do you feel the country understands the full scope of the crisis facing its returning service members?

DUFF: Well, absolutely not, because most people are only aware of the 40 veterans that died in Phoenix waiting to be seen.

Less than one percent, as you said, in this country have served their nation. Not only do we want to remember on this Memorial Day those who died with the ultimate sacrifice for their country, we want to remember veterans who still need our care, because they're dying now by the hands of the V.A.

Let me explain one last thing, is that we had 53 veterans die a day in 2011 by the V.A.'s own records just waiting for their benefits to get into the system, so these deaths have been going on for an extended period of time.

BROWN: And of course on this Memorial Day, there's a lot of thought going into this, and we just want to thank all of our veterans for your service and the sacrifices you've made for our country and also for all of those service members who are still serving our country.

Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff, thank you so much.

DUFF: Thank you for having me.

BROWN: Let's turn back to our lead story this hour, the stabbings and shootings in California.

The killer seemed obsessed with wealth and women. How this self- proclaimed virgin went on a killing spree to take revenge on, quote, "mankind."