Thousands hold vigil as UC Santa Barbara reacts to shootings

Richard Martinez, the father of 20-year-old Christopher Martinez, one of six killed in the Isla Vista, California shooting rampage, spoke to the media Saturday. Martinez expressed his frustration with “irresponsible politicans and the NRA” on gun control laws. (Reuters)

Several thousand students staged a candlelight vigil Saturday night in the seaside community near the University of California at Santa Barbara where  a 22-year-old gunman killed six people – including three students — and injured 13 others. Flags on the campus were lowered to half-staff and school officials moved quickly to set up counseling services for students, faculty and staff.

Students walked through the streets of Isla Vista holding candles while a student choir sang, “Amazing Grace,” my colleague Philip Rucker reported. Anthony Rodriguez with the Santa Barbara Response Network, who helped counsel many students on Saturday, told Rucker:
“It’s unbelievable. It’s unfathomable. There’s no words to express what has happened….it’s not just the people who have been personally injured. It’s the whole community. It hurts. It’s extremely difficult, and that’s why we’re here.”

Earlier in the day, school officials set up a room to welcome the families of students arriving on campus, and set up a call center.  The university’s website said that the Emergency Operations Center was open, displaced students were provided housing, and that counseling services would be available for whoever needed it. A statement on the Web site by Chancellor Henry T. Yang said that the flags at the university would be at half-staff for a week “to honor those whose lives were so suddenly and tragically cut short.”

On Friday night, the gunman, identified as Elliot Rodger, killed six people — three of them by stabbing — and injured 13 during a rampage in the seaside college community of Isla Vista, near UCSB. Rodger had posted a video online saying that he was planning a “day of retribution” against women who he said had ignored him. The three people found stabbed in his Isla Vista apartment were men.

Rodger was not a student at UCSB, which is one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system, but had attended Santa Barbara City College. A statement posted Saturday night on the city college’s website said:

As details of the Isla Vista tragedy continue to be released, it has now been confirmed by law enforcement that the assailant was named Elliot Rodger. According to our information, Rodger had registered at SBCC at various times during the last three years but had either stopped attending or withdrew from all courses. Before that, in 2011, he completed three courses. The college has not located any record of discipline or other issues.

To our knowledge, none of the identified deceased victims were students at the college.

As previously reported, the college is working closely with UCSB to provide counseling and support to students. Services are available currently at UCSB for all students and will be offered at the SBCC campus beginning next week. We are also providing grief counseling for SBCC employees.

We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families and for those who were injured during this extremely tragic and senseless incident. 

The Daily Nexus, the student newspaper at the University of California at Santa Barbara, posted on its website a map of the area showing where the gunman struck and published a story about I.V. Deli Mart owner Michael Hassan, who detailed how one of Rodger’s victims was shot and killed in his store. Emile Nelson, The newspaper’s opinion co-editor, wrote a commentary about the tragedy titled “Together We Rise: Isla Vista After the Shootings,” which noted that it is possible that most students on campus knew at least one of the victims. It said in part:

There will, of course, be talk over the next few days as to how we as a community can stop this kind of thing from happening in the future, whether it’s gun control laws or mental health awareness. But all I can really say today is that the level of friendship people have shown and the amount of love going around following last night is just unbelievable.

It’s sad that it takes a tragedy like this to remind us how important the people and relationships we have are, but we need to use this as a time to show each other that we’re not just contacts in a phone or friends on Facebook; we’re not just kids in class or people you see at the gym. We’re family. And now more than ever, we need to remind ourselves just how much we really do care about one another.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · May 24