Ignoring The Big Red Flags

This past week another senseless and random killing incident, this time in California, US, hit the headlines.

A 22-year-old student named Elliot Rodger stabbed three housemates, then went on a shooting spree, killing another three people and wounding seven more before turning the gun on himself.

Rodger is the son of Hollywood filmmaker Peter Rodger, assistant director on The Hunger Games films.

What’s different about this incident is that it may not be quite as random as previous killing sprees – think Columbine, or James Holmes dressed as the Joker. Over the years, sadly, authorities have had more and more cases to study to help come up with some kind of profile, and it seems that Elliot Rodger had been flying very red flags for a while.

Clear Warning Signs
It turns out that Rodger’s parents had alerted authorities to his disturbing behaviour back in April. Santa Barbara County deputies went to check up on Rodger – they found him to be polite, and took the explanation that he was only having a few problems with his social life at face-value.

It’s chilling that he later writes in his manifesto: “If they had demanded to search my room … (t)hat would have ended everything….[T]he police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail.”

It has been claimed that Rodger had Asperger’s syndrome, but a family friend denies that he was ever formally diagnosed, saying that his family suspected he may be on the autism spectrum because he was very withdrawn.

What Is Apserger’s?

Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of some basic skills, most importantly the ability to communicate, to socialise with others, and to use imagination.

Symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome can range from mild to severe, and common symptoms include:
• Problems with social skills such as difficulty interacting with others, being awkward in social situations as they have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation; generally not able to make friends easily.
• People with Asperger’s syndrome may develop rituals that they refuse to change, such as getting dressed in a specific order.
• Repetitive or eccentric behaviours: children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such as hand wringing or finger twisting.

There is nothing to suggest that people with Asperger’s are prone to violence. And, in Rodger’s case, his 141-page manifesto, at least, indicates that he was able to plan and use his imagination.

The Aftermath
Parents will be burying 7 students who had gone to college in what is meant to be a sunny, safe and carefree beach town – Santa Barbara – and 7 others will be trying to get their lives back on track. Renewed calls for stricter gun laws have already begun, even though the State of California has all the laws that lobbyists require, and three of the victims were stabbed.

Perhaps this will prompt more positive action regarding students who are struggling with mental illness, and showing clear signs of emotional distress.

Hopefully, there’s never a next time, but if there is: please deputies, just do a cursory search.

Sources:
http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/mental-health-aspergers-syndrome
http://laist.com/2014/05/26/alarming_email_prompted_elliot_rodg.php#photo-1

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