LOS ANGELES – The anguished mother a college student slain in a rampage outside Santa Barbara last year said Tuesday that she and the parents of two other victims realized their broken hearts will never be mended, but they sued the county sheriff and other parties to prevent future tragedies.
Kelly Wang sobbed at a Los Angeles news conference as she described the difficult decision to file a lawsuit Monday in federal court against the Santa Barbara sheriff, the county and the owner of the Capri Apartments, where her son and his two friends were stabbed dozens of times.
Her son, George Chen, was among the first victims of Elliot Rodger's "day of retribution," in which the troubled 22-year-old he carried out a plan to kill his roommates and slay as many University of California, Santa Barbara students as possible. He ended up killing six and injuring 14 people before taking his own life.
"We wish we could have laid down ourselves to save our sons," Wang said.
The lawsuit, also filed by the parents of Rodger's slain roommates, David Wang and James Hong, contends the apartment management company and the Sheriff's Department were negligent for ignoring numerous warning signs that Rodger was violent and unstable.
Wang spoke on behalf of the three families, saying she was the only mother well enough to do so. She said they were devastated to learn Rodger made a "narrow escape" after his mother saw disturbing YouTube videos he posted and had authorities check on him less than a month before the killings.
Several officers left the apartment after Rodger convinced them he was fine. Had they searched his apartment, Rodger later noted with relief in his manifesto, they would have discovered his cache of semi-automatic handguns and ammo.
Sheriff Bill Brown has defended his deputies and said they acted appropriately in previous encounters with Rodger. The department said in a statement that it could not comment on the lawsuit, "and anything we might say in response would be insufficient when measured against the grief suffered by the families of those killed so tragically."
Wang painted an image of Santa Barbara as a beautiful, peaceful pasture where innocent lives are at stake because of security breaches and outdated safety procedures.
"As the mother of a lost lamb, the fence must be mended so no more innocent lambs will fall victim of 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."
The lawsuit 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, Asset Campus Housing, a Texas-based company that provides student housing around the nation, failed to conduct reasonable background checks before assigning Hong and Wang as his roommates.
Messages seeking comment from representatives of the county and Asset Campus Housing were not returned Tuesday. A woman who answered the phone at Capri Apartments had no comment.