Isla Vista victims from the Bay Area remembered

Isla Vista stabbing victims from left to right: 19-year-old George Chen of San Jose, 20-year-old James Cheng-Yuan Hong of San Jose, and 20-year-old David Wang of Fremont.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Grief and disbelief are setting in across the UC Santa Barbara campus just days after a gunman went on a deadly rampage. And though the tragedy happened in Southern California, it's forever changed the lives of several families here in the Bay Area.

Sheriff's deputies say Elliot Rodger fatally stabbed 20-year-old James Cheng-Yuan Hong, 20-year-old David Wang, and 19-year-old George Chen in an Isla Vista apartment before he went on a shooting rampage. All three were from the South Bay and were studying at UCSB.

Officials say Hong and Wang were roommates with Rodger and it was a tense living situation. Friends say that Wang planned to move out of the apartment at the end of the semester because he felt Rodger was strange. Investigators say Wang was one of the first victims that Rodger stabbed.

Chen and Hong were friends from San Jose. Chen received his diploma from Leland High School just two years ago.



Monday night, there was an emotional plea from Chen's mother, Kelly Wang. She said, "This should not happen to any family, any family, this is just inhuman, it should not happen to any parents."

Chen's parents came down to Isla Vista along with the parents of Wang and Hong. They went to the scene of the crime to understand what happened.

When Chen's father, Junan Chen, learned about the shootings on the news Friday night, he wasn't too worried. He told ABC7 News, "I said, 'OK, my son should be safe because he lives inside of the school, in the residence hall.'"

As it turns out, their son was hanging out with his two friends at their apartment at the Capri. All three were the first victims of Rodger's.

For Chen's mother, what happened to her son is unthinkable. She said, "I just don't know why this happened to our son, it's just crazy. This just doesn't make any sense."

She described her son as an outgoing young man who had an excellent college career ahead of him. They both parents spent more than an hour at the scene and pledged to do all they can to stop this from happening to another family. Chen's mother even got down on her hands and knees to scrawl out a message to her 19-year-old son with chalk that fellow schoolmates left nearby. She wrote, "George, I love you! Mom and Dad."



Earlier at the Chen family home on Monday, a friend was sent out to speak with ABC7 News.

"They're very sad," said Sherry Shih. "They feel so bad that you're waiting outside so they want me to tell you that you don't have to spend the time here because you know they won't say anything. Too much sadness right now."

Neighbors describe Chen as very devoted to his studies, a trait he shared with Hong. Both were studying computers and both young men also volunteered in their community. Chen served as a camp counselor for the YMCA and Hong helped at the Rainbow Chinese School in Cupertino. Both are deeply missed.

Some of Chen's high school classmates remember him as an avid reader and a gentle spirit.

"He had a rolly backpack in high school, never had any enemies, always super friendly," said Chen's classmate, Sean O'Connor.



Another classmate of Chen's, Chanbra Basu, added, "I feel, like, really bad for his parents, his family. And I just wish it could have been prevented."

Several miles away, the Lynbrook High School community is also in mourning. Hong graduated from there in 2012. He helped Osher Shefer get through their physics class at Santa Barbara.

"I'm still in disbelief and I broke down into tears yesterday," Shefer said. "He was honestly just an innocent, genuine sweetheart."

While in high school, Hong took a computer science class at UC Berkeley. The instructor sent a tweet saying he scored better than 90 percent of his college students.

Hong also posted on Facebook that he scored an 800 on his math SAT. Like his friend, so much potential, now gone.

Charis Hoppe and Hope Currin became friends with Hong when they lived in the dorms together last year.



They were at a swim meet in Irvine over the weekend, so the news of the news of the violence hit them in stages. First they heard about Friday night's rampage through frantic texts from friends. Then they learned about the disturbing videos and writings by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger through news reports. And on Sunday, they discovered that one of their friends was a victim.

"It was hard hearing that James was one of the people who was a roommate because he's just such an endearing person to me," Hoppe said.

Currin added, "I just remember him in the dining commons, just like sitting with the people that were alone. Sometimes if he was alone he would wave to people and ask them to come over as well."

David Wang graduated from Fremont Christian School two years ago.

Ron Macciola is one of the pastors.

"When we heard that the young man was from Fremont, we kinda held our breath," he said. "And then our headmaster Dr. Tricia Meyer said that he had been a 2012 graduate. Our hearts broke."



Wang had played basketball at the school and loved the sport. The family lives in a condo not far from the school.

"We are all in shock right now," said neighbor Abhijit Daga. "We are trying to support the family. And as a community, everyone."

On Sunday night, family friend Judy Ren came to the door to talk to ABC7 News.

"That was their only son," she said. "He's so smart."

Wang was majoring in engineering.

Before attending Fremont Christian, Wang was at American High School for about a month during his freshman year. Jim Morris is with the Fremont Unified School District.

"In a community like ours, there are always connections between families or perhaps through sporting activities or other activities where students may have had some connection," he said. "And that's what we need to be prepared for."

Counseling will be offered to students of American High starting Tuesday.

Both the Chen and Wang families left Monday morning for Santa Barbara.

The three other victims are from Central California and Southern California.

Katherine Cooper was a 22-year-old from Chino Hills, about to graduate with an art history degree. Her sorority sister, 19-year-old Veronika Weiss, was a first year student from Westlake Village.

And 20-year-old Christopher Martinez, an English major from Los Osos in San Luis Obisbo County, worked at the IV Deli.

A Bay Area victim who survived the attack is recovering at a Santa Barbara hospital. Nick Pasichuke of Danville was in Isla Vista visiting a former San Ramon Valley High School classmate. He was long boarding when he and his bicycling friend were hit by Rodger's car. Both of his legs were broken. He underwent surgery over the weekend and says he's trying to get better as fast as he can. Pasichuke's sister says there's been an outpouring of support on social media, and at the family's home in the East Bay.

New details about Isla Vista shooter emergee

We're getting more details about the shooter and his parents' desperate attempts to reach him and prevent a tragedy.

From the outside, the gunman lived a seemingly privileged life. But his frightening manifesto details a life of loneliness and rejection that drove him to kill.

Elliot Rodger's parents knew something was terribly wrong. Just before the attack, they received their son's chilling 137-page manifesto. His YouTube postings confirmed their worst fears.

"You forced me suffer all my life, and that will make you all suffer," he said in the video.

His parents jumped in the car, frantically rushing to Santa Barbara. But they were too late.

The killing spree began in Rodger's apartment, where police found the bodies of his two roommates and one of their visiting friends. The young men were stabbed repeatedly.

Rodger's next target was the Alphi Phi sorority house.

In his YouTube video he said, "I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB."

Two female students -- Katie Cooper and Veronika Weiss -- were shot and killed.

Next a deli, where surveillance video shows panicked students dodging bullets. Another student died there -- sophomore Chris Michaels-Martinez.

"He was so much a part of our lives that it's hard to imagine how things are going to be like now that he's gone," said the victim's father, Richard Martinez.

The senseless violence continued. Six were killed and 13 injured. The rampage ended when the gunman shot and killed himself.

Police searched the homes of Rodger's parents on Sunday, the couple is divorced. His family says Rodger has been in therapy since childhood. He was prescribed psychotropic drugs, but he wrote that he refused to take them.

The sheriff says he was able to legally buy his guns because he had never been institutionalized against his will. Deputies found three guns and 400 rounds in his car.

"He was really really upset about why the world was unfair to him," said Rodger's friend Andi Chan.

Just weeks earlier, the Rodger family contacted the police, concerned about their son's disturbing online rants. But police investigated and found nothing suspicious

"They were there for a welfare check," said ABC News chief legal anchor Dan Abrams. "To make sure that he was not a danger to himself or to others."

After the investigation, Rodger's wrote, "If they had demanded to search my room... that would have ended everything."

The six victims still hospitalized are improving, all now in fair condition or better.

The University of California Santa Barbara -- only one block away from the shooting scenes -- has announced Tuesday classes are canceled. Instead it will be a day of mourning and reflection.

Victim's father calls for stronger gun control laws

Richard Martinez is calling for stronger gun control laws after the death of his only son.

He had talked to his son Christopher less than an hour before he was shot and killed at the deli where he worked. His dad shared photos of his son.

Martinez blasted politicians in a very emotional outburst over what he calls their lack of response to ongoing gun violence.

"My kid died because nobody responded to what happened at Sandy Hook," he said. "Those parents lost little kids. It's bad enough that I lost my 20-year-old. But I had 20 years with my son... That's all I'll ever have."

Martinez also lashed out against the National Rifle Association at a news conference Saturday.

He says he's speaking out because if there are only stories in the media about the shooter and not the victims, it sends the wrong message.

(ABC News and ABC7 News reporters Tiffany Wilson, Lyanne Melendez, Sergio Quintana, and Matt Keller contributed to this report)
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