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The Star Online: World Updates

Gunman kills six in rampage in California college town

Posted: 24 May 2014 10:20 PM PDT

SANTA BARBARA Calif. (Reuters) - A 22-year-old gunman killed six people before taking his own life in a rampage across a California college town, shortly after he posted a threatening video railing against women, police said on Saturday.

Elliot Rodger, the son of a Hollywood director, stabbed three people to death in his apartment before gunning down three more victims on Friday night in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Rodger opened fire on bystanders from his car and on foot in a killing spree that ended when he took his life after a shootout with sheriff's deputies, police said. Authorities found three legally purchased semiautomatic guns, two Sig Sauers and a Glock, and more than 400 rounds of ammunition in his car.

At least 13 people were wounded, including eight who were shot.

In a YouTube video, a young man presumed by police to be Rodger bitterly complains of loneliness and rejection by women and lays out plans to kill those he believes spurned him.

"It's obviously the work of a madman," Sheriff Bill Brown told a news conference, adding the community college student had been seen by a variety of health care professionals and that it was "very, very apparent he was severely mentally disturbed." Witnesses reported seeing someone driving a black BMW through the streets and shooting at people in the beachside community where many college students live.

Brown said his department had three times been in contact with Rodger prior to the killings, including once after a family member asked them to check on his welfare last month. Deputies interviewed Rodger but found him to be polite and courteous and took no further action, Brown said.

"He expressed to deputies he was having difficulties with his social life and would probably not be returning to school within the next year," Brown said, adding that deputies determined he did not meet the criteria to be held involuntarily on mental health grounds.

The son of assistant director Peter Rodger on the 2012 film "The Hunger Games," Elliot Rodger had previously gone to authorities to report a roommate had stolen some candles. Another time, he reported being the victim of an assault. Authorities said they later suspected he may have been the aggressor.

"We offer our deepest, compassionate sympathy to the families involved in this terrible tragedy," lawyer Alan Shifman told reporters outside the family home in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, reading from a prepared statement on behalf of the family.

"We are experiencing the most inconceivable pain and our hearts go out to everyone involved," he added.

WROTE MANIFESTO A YouTube video police were studying shows a young man who identified himself as Elliot Rodger pouring out his hatred of women who have rejected him and "popular kids," and threatening to kill people out of loneliness and sexual frustration. "You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime," he said in the video, his speech punctuated by bursts of laughter. The clip, since removed from YouTube as a violation of its policies, appeared to have been uploaded to YouTube on Friday night, shortly before the shooting. Brown said Rodger had also penned a 141-page manifesto, in addition to posting several disturbing videos.

Rodger's killing spree appeared to begin in his apartment, where he repeatedly stabbed three men, killing them and leaving behind what Brown described as a horrifying crime scene.

He then made his way to a nearby sorority house, whose members heard aggressive knocking on the door for at least a minute. But no one from the collegiate women's organization answered, Brown said.

He said that shortly afterward, witnesses reported seeing Rodger shoot three young women outside the sorority house. Katherine Cooper, 22, and Veronica Weiss, 19, died.

Driving off to a nearby delicatessen, Rodger shot dead 20-year-old UCSB student Christopher Michael-Martinez, Brown said. Police responded and Rodger fled in his car.

He shot at pedestrians as he drove, traded fire with police and struck two bicyclists before he crashed his car and officers found him with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Brown said. Richard Martinez told reporters that his son Christopher was an English major who wanted to go to law school.

"Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA," Martinez told reporters outside the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, close to collapsing from emotion. "They talk about gun rights, what about Chris' right to live? When will this insanity stop?"

The National Rifle Association, or NRA, supports the right to own and carry firearms, saying responsible gun owners should not be punished for mass shootings.


Trent Anderson, 21, a student at Santa Barbara City College, said in a phone interview that he and a friend went to the deli to get food and then walked away a short distance when they heard shots fired.

"It sounded like six to eight shots," Anderson said. "He just blasted it up. He unloaded the clips so fast it sounded like fireworks, he was trigger-happy." The incident was the latest mass shooting in the United States, where schools, shopping malls and military bases have been scenes of such crimes. In December 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed at an elementary school in Connecticut, six months after a gunman killed 14 people in a Colorado movie theater. The deadliest U.S. mass shooting in modern times was in 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people.

Following the latest attack, a crowd of about 5,000 people, most of them holding candles, met at UCSB for a vigil and then filled the narrow streets of Isla Vista as they converged on a park. The largely college-age crowd walked in a silence broken only by their footsteps on the pavement.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, Peter Cooney, Jonathan Allen, Jonathan Alcorn, Kevin Murphy, Ellen Wulfhorst; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Frances Kerry, Bill Trott and Lisa Shumaker)

Colombians vote for president with peace talks in the balance

Posted: 24 May 2014 10:16 PM PDT

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombians vote for a president on Sunday in the tightest election in two decades that may determine whether the country continues peace talks with leftist guerrillas or steps up its battlefield offensive to end a 50-year war.

The vote has largely become a plebiscite on President Juan Manuel Santos' strategy of negotiating disarmament of Marxist FARC rebels to end bloodshed that has killed some 200,000.

Right-winger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga dismissed the talks as pandering to terrorists and suggested he would scrap them in favour of U.S.-backed military campaigns similar to those led by his mentor, former President Alvaro Uribe.

Santos and Zuluaga are polling neck-and-neck following a race marred by accusations of electronic espionage and drug-linked campaign financing. Neither is seen winning enough votes to avoid a June 15 run-off.

"Peace is the hope for humanity, and Santos is peaceful, not a warrior," said Arley Bustos, 48, who was selling umbrellas and World Cup stickers on a street Bogota. "Peace will bring us progress."

Uribe fell out with Santos, 62, when the president launched peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) instead of sticking to the eight-year strategy of forcing the group's surrender on the battlefield.

Santos appeals to Colombians who hope the guerrillas will finally lay down arms after seeing top leaders killed and their numbers halved to about 8,000 fighters.


The talks in Cuba have yielded agreements on three items of a five-point agenda, including one deal just signed in which the FARC agreed to step away from the drug trade.

But Zuluaga has galvanized conservative Colombians who believe the talks will fail like three similar attempts since the 1980s, including a 1999 peace deal that let the FARC bolster its ranks and boost involvement in drugs.

Three other candidates also on the ballot have mostly polled in single digits and are not seen reaching the second round.

While Colombians are desperate to see an end to the killing, many are outraged that guerrilla leaders accused of crimes against humanity could be pardoned or hold political office.

"All politicians promise peace, but we haven't seen progress and the guerrillas keep killing soldiers," said Otilia Tibovizco, 60, selling food on a Bogota street corner.

Zuluaga has travelled the country with Uribe, from coca farms in the south to cattle ranches in the northwest, reminding voters of how Uribe's confrontation of insurgents gave Colombia its biggest security gains since war broke out in 1964.

Polls show him surging over the last month to catch or even overtake Santos.

Those surveys may not reflect last-minute scandals including accusations that Zuluaga's campaign sought to sabotage the peace talks by hacking the negotiators' emails and allegations that Santos took drug money during his 2010 campaign.

Both deny wrongdoing.

The two candidates broadly back the same economic platform of attracting foreign investment, boosting output of oil and minerals and maintaining cautious fiscal policy that is applauded by Wall Street.

(Additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Lisa Shumaker)

Polling stations open in Ukraine's presidential election

Posted: 24 May 2014 10:15 PM PDT

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian polling stations opened on Sunday in a presidential election overshadowed by violence in the country's mainly Russian-speaking east and by Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

Voting began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) across the former Soviet republic of 45 million people. It will end 12 hours later, when exit polls will indicate a result ahead of an official outcome on Monday.

Voters will find many polling stations shut in the east, where armed pro-Moscow separatists are trying to block an election they say is illegitimate. European election monitors have largely pulled out of the Donetsk region, citing a separatist campaign of "terror" against Ukrainian officials.

Opinion polls put Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionery magnate, well ahead of his rivals in an election expected to draw a high turnout. If no candidate wins over 50 percent of the vote a run-off election will be held on June 15.

(Reporting by Gareth Jones)


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