UCSB responds to the deaths of six students


IN MOURNING:  Members of the UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista communities held numerous events to mourn the deaths of six UCSB students killed on May 23. Classes were canceled on May 27. - PHOTO BY CHLOE RUCKER
  • IN MOURNING: Members of the UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista communities held numerous events to mourn the deaths of six UCSB students killed on May 23. Classes were canceled on May 27.

Flags at all University of California campuses are sitting at half-staff until Sunday, June 1, to mourn the loss of six UC Santa Barbara students murdered in Isla Vista on May 23.

“Our UCSB family is in mourning,” Chancellor Henry Yang wrote in a letter to the campus community on May 24. “We grieve for the precious lives lost, and we share in the heartbreak of their families, friends, and classmates.”

College officials canceled classes on May 27, declaring it a day of mourning and reflection, and a memorial service was held at Harder Stadium that afternoon. Students held a candlelight vigil the evening of May 24; it started on the UCSB campus and moved to Aniwq ‘Oyo Park, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. To help students and community members deal with the tragedy, the college has extended walk-in advising hours and made counselors available by phone 24 hours a day.

The murders made headlines on the Central Coast and across the nation. News outlets descended on Isla Vista and continue to put out reports about the murders and the now-dead man police say was behind it all: 22-year-old Elliot Rodger.

The media frenzy drew ire from at least one UCSB student. 

“It is bad enough that on top of dealing with the sudden and unnecessary loss of our fellow Gauchos, the people of Isla Vista not only feel unsafe in a place we call home, but are treated as animals in a zoo by reporters and news channels,” junior Monica Rodriguez wrote on her Facebook page. “So the amount of frustration I feel when I actually see what is being published and circulated is off the damn charts.”


She writes that too much emphasis is placed on Rodger rather than the victims of the tragedy and the community’s response.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is continuing its investigation into the suspect’s life and the 12 different crime scenes in and around Isla Vista. 

The victims have been identified as 20-year-old Cheng Yuan Hong of San Jose, 19 year-old George Chen of San Jose, 20-year-old Weihan Wang of Fremont, 22-year-old Katherine Breann Cooper of Chino Hills, 19-year-old Veronika Elizabeth Weiss of Westlake Village, and 20-year-old Christopher Michaels-Martinez of San Luis Obispo.

On May 24, the attorney for the Rodger family, Alan Shifman, also held a press conference in front of the family’s home in Woodland Hills. Shifman said Elliot Rodger was diagnosed at an early age with highly functioning Asperger syndrome and had been receiving help from multiple professionals. Asperger syndrome is an autism-spectrum disorder that affects language and behavioral development in children.

“The world has got to spend more on this mental health system because it does appear to be broken,” Shifman said during the conference.

He also said Rodger didn’t have a history with gun violence and that his parents noticed their son’s recent posts on YouTube regarding suicide and multiple murders and reported them to police weeks ago.

“They’re devastated. … It’s a tragedy of immense consequences,” Shifman said during the press conference. “It’s a tragedy we really have to get our hands around and try to prevent from happening again.”


The day after the tragedy, the father of one of the victims also spoke at a press conference. The visibly distraught Richard Martinez, father of Chris Martinez, called out the National Rifle Association and U.S. Congress and asked for things to change.

“You don’t think it’ll happen to your child until it does. His death has left our family lost and broken. Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights—what about Chris’ right to live?” Martinez said during the press conference. “Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, ‘Not one more.’”


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