As authorities continue to investigate Friday’s rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus, profiles of the victims have emerged, giving the tragedy a deepened sense of identity and loss.
The killing spree –- which left seven people dead, including the suspected gunman, and 13 injured –- began in the apartment that Elliot Rodger rented, inside a two-story courtyard building fronted by palm trees.
James Cheng-yuan Hong, 20, George Chen, 19, and Weihan Wang, 20, were found stabbed to death inside, authorities said. All were from the San Francisco Bay Area and were students at the university. Hong and Chen were listed on the apartment lease. Wang was visiting his friends.
Lara Lewis lived in the same housing area as Hong during his freshman year.
“Instant tears upon hearing about the loss of James Cheng-yuan Hong,” she wrote online. “Please pray for his family.”
Instant tears upon hearing about the loss of James Cheng-yuan Hong. Please pray for his family. Love you James RIP ?? pic.twitter.com/LxyPO4gphR— Lara Lewis (@Laralew42) May 26, 2014
A Change of Plans
Following the stabbings, police said Rodger drove five blocks to the Alpha Phi sorority house. He was seeking “retribution” for what he experienced as a lifetime of social and sexual isolation.
He pounded on the sorority house’s front door.
No one answered.
So Rodger walked around the corner, authorities said, and opened fire on a group of students that included Veronika Weiss and Katherine Cooper, two UCSB students. Cooper’s friend Courtney Benjamin said Cooper, 22, was a painter with an outgoing side. She was preparing to graduate with a degree in art history.
"She was a self-proclaimed princess and I love her for that," Benjamin said. "And I know she has a crown on her head today."
Weiss, 19, was a first-year student from Westlake Village, California, who had played water polo in high school.
"She was always a happy person," said Eric Pursley, who worked with Weiss at a Target store in Thousand Oaks last year.
Two blocks and three minutes later, Rodger was at a local deli. There, he got out of his car, went inside and shot and killed Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20. Friends described him as the kind of person who would welcome strangers into his home. He planned to study abroad and then go to law school.
Following the tragedy, Richard Martinez discussed his son’s impact.
“Our son was the most important thing in the world to all of us,” he said through tears. “He was our only child and he was so much a part of our lives. It's hard to imagine how things are going to be like now that he's gone.
“If we have to live with this, we want to do what we can, so nobody else has to go through this,” Martinez said.
End of the Rampage
The killing spree continued across the college town –- with a total of 10 places where Rodger hurt or killed people. He drove madly through the streets, striking bicyclists and pedestrians.
One of the injured pedestrians, Nick Pasichuke, was in Santa Barbara visiting a high school friend when he was struck by Rodger’s BMW. Pasichuke is still recovering this morning, hospitalized after suffering two broken legs.