Police laud ‘hero’ in Seattle shootings
By GENE JOHNSON and SHANNON DININNY Associated Press June 1, 2012 9:42AM
Stacy Davis cries as she sits near a growing memorial at the scene of where a gunman killed four people and severely wounded another in a cafe a day earlier, Thursday, May 31, 2012, in Seattle. Police say he later killed a woman during a carjacking before shooting himself. As officers closed in during a widespread manhunt on Wednesday, the suspect put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger and later died at a hospital. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
SEATTLE — The man had been banned from the artsy Seattle cafe for acting out, but he showed up anyway and tried to place an order. After the barista declined to serve him, he stood up, took out a gun and began shooting as people scrambled for cover.
One man tried to stop him.
Grabbing the only weapons at hand — bar stools — he tossed them at the gunman, even as the man aimed at him, Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said Thursday after reviewing surveillance video of the massacre. The tactic created enough of a delay in the shooting that two or three other customers managed to escape.
“My brother died in the World Trade Center,” the man later told police, who provided an account of the interview. After his brother’s death, he said, he resolved that if something like this ever happened, “I would never hide under a table.”
Lawrence Adams told The Seattle Times that his brother, an employee at the Windows on the World restaurant, had been killed in the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
By the time Ian Lee Stawicki’s rampage was over, five people had been shot in Cafe Racer — four fatally, including two musicians who frequently played there.
The gunman put his two .45-caliber handguns in his pocket, grabbed a bowler-style hat off the head of one of his dead victims, placed it on his own head and walked out.
He fled first to downtown Seattle, where he shot a woman to death while stealing her black Mercedes sports-utility vehicle, then drove it to West Seattle, where he met up with an old friend who had no idea what he’d done, police said.
The friend eventually ditched Stawicki because he wasn’t making any sense, and called police after learning about the shootings. Stawicki killed himself on a West Seattle street as officers moved in to arrest him.
“In my almost 30 years in this department, I’ve never seen anything more callous, horrific and cold,” Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz said Thursday.
The gunman’s father struggled to understand how his son could have gone on a shooting rampage and apologized to the victims’ families. “The first thing I can say, and it doesn’t go very far at this point, is I’m so sorry,” Walter Stawicki told The Associated Press, his voice quivering. “It sounds so trite, that I feel their grief.”
Ian Stawicki, 40, had suffered from mental illness for years and gotten “exponentially” more erratic, his father said, but relatives couldn’t convince him to seek help.
“He wouldn’t hear it,” he said. “We couldn’t get him in, and they wouldn’t hold him.”
Walter Stawicki recalled a son who liked dogs, kids and plants. He joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school, but the Army honorably discharged him after about a year, he said. Since then, Ian Stawicki had bounced around serving as a roadie for bands and helping his mother with gardening.
According to the city attorney’s office, police cited Stawicki in 1989 for carrying a concealed knife and, in 2008, a girlfriend who lived with him claimed he had assaulted her and had destroyed her property. She later recanted, and charges were dismissed because she would not cooperate with prosecutors.
Stawicki obtained a concealed weapons permit in 2010 from the Kittitas County sheriff’s office. The permit shows he owned six firearms. Other than a couple of traffic tickets and a fistfight with his brother several years ago — charges were dropped — Stawicki had no criminal record, his father said.
“When you knew him and he liked you, he was the best friend you could have. He was an old-fashioned gentleman,” he said. “But when he was having bad days, he scared people.”
Walter Stawicki last spoke to his son the morning of the shooting. He recalled a cheerful conversation. “He handed the phone to his mother and I said, ‘Gee, he sounds in a good mood.’”
Wednesday’s slayings further frayed nerves in an already jittery city that has seen 21 homicides so far this year — as many as Seattle had in all of 2011.
“The city is stunned and seeking to make sense of it,” Mayor Mike McGinn said. “I think we have to start by acknowledging the tremendous amount of grief that’s out there from the families and friends of the victims.”
The only survivor of the cafe shooting, Leonard Meuse, was upgraded from critical to serious condition at Harborview Medical Center. Lawrence Adams told The Times that cafe employee Meuse was the real hero, phoning for help despite his gunshot wounds.
“He had the presence of mind as the captain of the ship to do his job,” Adams said. “He just kept doing his job.”
People stopped by to drop off flowers, cans of beer and toy instruments in front of the cafe Thursday. Two of the victims, identified by friends as Drew Keriakedes, 49, and Joe Albanese, 52, were old-time musicians and regulars at the cafe, where they often played or simply held court.
“They were the life of this place,” Janna Silver said. “They were very welcoming, and they’d talk to anyone.”
The King County medical examiner also identified another cafe victim, Kimberly Layfield, 36. Layfield had lived in Seattle for 10 years, her aunt Sheilah Holland said. Holland said Layfield returned to Seattle on Monday after spending three weeks at home with family and friends to celebrate her grandmother Freda Cochran’s 103rd birthday.
The carjacked woman was identified as Gloria Leonidas, 52. The Seattle Times said she was a married mother of two from suburban Bellevue. The medical examiner’s office does not release hometowns.
Formal identification of the other victims, as well as the victims’ cause and manner of death, will be released Friday, the medical examiner’s office said.
Associated Press writer Chris Grygiel contributed to this report. Dininny reported from Yakima, Wash.