A landlord’s duty to screen roommates and the failed welfare check conducted by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department are at the heart of a lawsuit filed March 2 by families of victims of Elliot Rodger’s deadly rampage in Isla Vista.
Two law firms representing families of three victims — two roommates and a visitor bludgeoned to death by Rodger at the Capri Apartments on the afternoon of May 23, 2014 — filed their civil suit in a Federal District Court in Los Angeles seeking unspecified damages.
The suit names as defendants the county of Santa Barbara; the Sheriff’s Department; Capri Apartments, where Rodger had lived; and Texas-based apartment management firm Asset Campus Housing.
Becker Law Group and McNicholas & McNicholas allege that Rodger had a history of violence and prejudice against roommates and that the parents of David Wang, James Hong and George Chen should have been warned by Capri and Asset that he represented a risk.
Roommates “Hong and Wang trusted that Capri had conducted a reasonable investigation into Rodger before assigning him as their roommate, and they trusted that he had been vetted as safe and appropriate,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that officers who conducted the welfare check in April 2014 failed to contact the roommates or warn them that Rodger’s parents were concerned about his Web postings. The suit also alleges that the officers failed to check gun ownership records to see if Rodger owned any guns. The suit alleges the county and sheriff’s departments maintained a policy of “deliberate indifference” when conducting welfare checks.
In the case of Rodger, family members requested the welfare check after they viewed disturbing and violent materials Rodger had posted on the Web.
The lawsuit comes just one week after the Sheriff’s Department released its own report on the shootings that provided additional details about the welfare check and grisly murders of Wang, Hong and Chen, a visitor who happened by the apartment and was stabbed to death.
The causes of action include violations of due process and negligence. The attorneys and victim’s families have scheduled a press conference at 10 a.m. on March 3 at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.