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Student Injured in Isla Vista Rampage Suing Sheriff’s Department, UCSB and Gunman’s Parents

A UC Santa Barbara student who was seriously injured last year when a gunman terrorized the streets of Isla Vista on a murderous spree is suing Santa Barbara County, the Sheriff’s Department, UCSB and the shooter’s parents — alleging negligence and false imprisonment after authorities mistakenly placed the student in handcuffs.

Los Angeles attorney Brian Kabateck filed the civil lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court last week on behalf of Keith Cheung, who was among the 14 people injured on the night of May 23, 2014, when 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a stabbing and shooting rampage around Isla Vista.

Six UCSB students were killed before Rodger turned the gun on himself.

The lawsuit alleges that Rodger’s L.A.-based parents, Peter and Li Chin Rodger, knew about their son’s “dangerous propensities and desire to cause injury to himself and others” but failed to prevent or mitigate dangers even though a simple online search would reveal videos of Rodger spouting hateful and misogynistic diatribes, mainly against women who had rejected him over the years.

Civil rights violations came into play at the end of Rodger’s rampage, when sheriff’s deputies mistakenly thought Cheung was a second perpetrator of the crimes.

Cheung was riding his bicycle back to his home on Del Playa from his job as a lifeguard at the UCSB Recreation Center when Rodger sped up in his black BMW and struck him from behind, flipping Cheung into the air and through the windshield.

After Rodger crashed his BMW and took his own life, Cheung was ejected from the windshield. 

“Despite his injuries, Cheung was handcuffed by local authorities prior to being transported to the hospital in violation of his constitutional rights,” the lawsuit alleges.

In its own lengthy report released in February, the Sheriff’s Department admitted Cheung was put in handcuffs “for no more than three to five minutes” before law enforcement realized he had been attacked by the suspect.

Cheung’s attorney told Noozhawk that the Sheriff’s Department wrongfully accused and then dragged his client off the car, invading his personal space in unlawful detainment.

The county and UCSB are named in the lawsuit, Kabateck said, because officers from the Sheriff’s Department and UCSB Police responded to the welfare check in April 2014, failing to identify Rodger as a threat or to locate his guns and many rounds of ammunition.

The complaint alleges the Sheriff’s Department ignored earlier signs of Rodger’s aggression toward others, including an instance when deputies responded to the Capri Apartments where he lived with two students who would become his first victims.

Rodger accused his roommate, Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, of stealing candles, which the Sheriff’s Department report later points out was done because Rodger kept hiding his roommates' pots and pans. He didn’t like the smell of their cooking.

Rodger stabbed Hong and Weihan “David” Wang to death before his shooting rampage began, along with their friend, George Chen.

Deputies made contact with Rodger another time in July 2013 after he attended a party in Isla Vista and started an altercation when no one would talk to him. Rodger was injured when he fell from a 10-foot ledge at the party — a fact that deputies and his parents should’ve seen as a warning sign, the lawsuit alleges.

Proper training and protocols could’ve prevented the tragedy, the complaint states.

UCSB spokesman George Foulsham said the university doesn’t comment on pending litigation, and an attorney for Rodger's parents could not be reached.

The county hadn’t been served with the complaint as of Tuesday, so county counsel Michael Ghizzoni and Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said they also had no comment at this time.

The lawsuit demands a jury trial and monetary compensation for damages and attorney’s fees incurred.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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