(Reuters) – The parents of Elliot Rodger, the gunman who killed six college students in a rampage in southern California, are suffering “hell on earth” knowing their son caused such a tragedy, they said in a statement on Thursday.
Rodger’s family members are mourning the victims of Friday’s mass shooting more than they are mourning their son, said family friend and spokesman Simon Astaire reading the statement on NBC’s “Today” show.
“We are crying in pain for the victims and their families. It breaks our hearts on a level that we didn’t think possible,” said the statement he read by Chin Rodger and Peter Rodger, who is a Hollywood film director.
“The feeling of knowing that it was our son’s actions that caused the tragedy can only be described as hell on earth,” they said.
Six students at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the 22-year-old killer died in the stabbing and shooting spree in the seaside community of Isla Vista. Thirteen other people were wounded.
Astaire added that the couple, who are divorced, have “diminished” since their son’s killing spree.
“They have gone down in size. They’re virtually unrecognizable,” he said.
The parents have not read their son’s manifesto, in which he laid out his plans to exact revenge for being rejected by women, he said. Rodger emailed his deadly plans to several people before he drove through the streets of Isla Vista and gunned people down.
“It’s an awful piece of writing. They’re going through absolutely enough at the moment,” Astaire said. “They are mourning the victims more than they are mourning their son.”
Chin Rodger received a telephone call form her son’s therapist about the manifesto on Friday night, and the two parents raced separately to Isla Vista, Astaire has said. The mother heard radio reports about the shootings as she drove, he said.
The shooting spree ended when Rodger’s car crashed and he was found dead inside, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot. Police found three legally purchased semiautomatic guns and some 400 rounds of unspent ammunition.
Chin and Peter Rodger vowed to help finds ways to deal with mental illnesses “not only to avoid any more innocence destroyed, but also to identify and deal with the mental issues that drove our son to do what he did,” their statement said.
They got treatment for their son, who they had feared could be violent to himself, but they did not ever think he would hurt anyone else, Astaire said.
But the spokesman added: “Elliot had been living another life for a number of years.”
Rodger had seen therapists off and on since he was 9 years old, Astaire has said.
Local sheriff’s deputies visited him at his apartment weeks before the shooting at the request of his mother, who reported being disturbed by videos he had posted online, but left after he assured them he meant no harm.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey,; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)