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Police had contact with California shooter

Elliot Rodger stabbed three people to death before gunning down three more victims on Friday night.

An undated photo of murder suspect Elliot Rodger is seen at a press conference by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff in Goleta, California on 24 May, 2014. Picture: AFP.

SANTA BARBARA - Authorities say they had been in contact with Elliot Rodger three times prior to Friday night's killing spree in the town of Isla Vista near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Rodger, the son of a Hollywood director, stabbed three people to death in his apartment before gunning down three more victims on Friday night.

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, 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.