A man whom police are hailing as a hero in Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a Seattle’s cafe braved gunfire to hurl barstools at the suspect. Identified by police only as “Lawrence,” the man says he didn’t hesitate to put his life in danger, emboldened by the memory of his brother, who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I just threw the frigging stool at him, legs first,” he told police according to a report on the Seattle Police Department’s website. “My brother died in the World Trade Center. I promised myself, if something like this ever happened, I would never hide under a table.”
Lawrence’s actions allowed three customers to escape, according to police. Four others died when Ian L. Stawicki, 40, allegedly unleashed a barrage of bullets inside Café Racer, a University District joint popular with music fans and artists. Two of the men killed were folk musicians and best friends; an aspiring actress and an urban planner also died. Half an hour after the slayings, a mother of two was shot and killed downtown. Police believe Stawicki was responsible for both shootings; the mentally ill man fatally shot himself Wednesday afternoon as police cornered him in West Seattle.
Stawicki, who was unemployed, had struggled with mental illness since his 20s. His father, Walter Stawicki, told the Seattle Times that his son was angry and unpredictable, informing his girlfriend that he was married with six children and telling some people that he worked for the CIA. “We knew he had issues,” says Walter Stawicki.
The violence capped a week of gang-related and random shootings that has the city on edge. Last week, a father was struck by a stray bullet as he ran errands with his children and his parents. On Saturday, a man was hit in the leg as he walked near the Space Needle. Seattle is considered a fairly safe city for its size, but Wednesday’s deaths nudged the number of homicides this year to 21 — the same as in all of 2011.
Lawrence, who didn’t want his last name released because he’s not ready to talk to the press, offered a chilling description of a typical overcast Seattle morning gone awry. A regular at Café Racer, Lawrence had hewed to his routine and gone to get his morning coffee. Shortly before 11 a.m., Stawicki arrived. He’d apparently caused problems in the past and was informed Wednesday morning “in a very polite manner,” according to Lawrence, that he’d been “86’d” from the café.
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Lawrence glanced at his phone then looked up when he heard gunshots. According to the police, he said:
“I hear the pop, pop, and people scrambling. I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t expect the gun to be that quiet. I thought ‘this is really happening.’ As Stawicki opened fire in the café, Lawrence grabbed a bar stool and used it to try to fight off Stawicki and defend his friends:
“[Stawicki] looked at me like he didn’t [care] at all. He just moved towards the rear of the bar instead of dealing with me at all, and I just brushed past him. He was on a mission to kill my friends.”
“I wasn’t a hero,” Lawrence says, pointing out that a café employee who was wounded in the shooting was able to call 911 and “lucidly” give police information about the shooting. “He’s the hero,” Lawrence says.