Ian Stawicki took five innocent lives before turning the gun on himself in West Seattle on May 30, 2012. He spent several hours on the peninsula before police tracked him down.
A most dangerous day: Tracking Ian Stawicki through West Seattle
From the Duwamish to the Sound, for four hours on May 30, 2012, West Seattle was locked in a state of fear as a gunman responsible for the shooting deaths of five innocent people – four at Café Racer in North Seattle and one at a First Hill parking lot downtown – roamed the peninsula as every law enforcement officer available scoured our streets for their suspect.
The physical harm he unleashed upon others that day had ended, but the loaded firearm and several backup cartridges stashed in his backpack during that time illustrate the carnage could have continued.
At 4 p.m., the bloodshed came to an end as 40-year-old Ian Stawicki, a Seattle man with a history of mental illness, shot himself as police approached in West Seattle’s Fairmount Park neighborhood. It was a little over a mile away from where he ditched a SUV stolen, on Delridge Way S.W., from the woman he killed on First Hill.
One year and two months after that tragic day, Seattle Police have closed the case on Ian Stawicki and a public disclosure request from the West Seattle Herald has come through, resulting in 350-plus pages of documents that help shed light on where Stawicki went and what he did in West Seattle, including contacting an ex-girlfriend who worked at South Seattle Community College and getting to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma to speak with military personnel about information he had.
At first, chaos and an unidentified suspect
By the time Stawicki pulled over on the 4100 block of Delridge Way S.W. (just north of the Delridge Playfield) shortly after noon, police had surveillance footage of their shooter from Café Racer, but were still attempting to identify him and find out if the same man was responsible for the First Hill shooting.
Stawicki abandoned the SUV and, when it was discovered by Southwest Precinct police shortly after, a loaded .45 caliber Colt handgun with an extended magazine, nine rounds and the hammer cocked and ready to fire was found on the front passenger seat.
Photo by David Rosen
Police descend upon the SUV stolen by Ian Stawicki after taking an innocent woman’s life in a First Hill Parking lot.
Police dispatch logs from that time frame show tips were coming in from all directions. A FEDEX driver had seen a suspicious male hiding behind a house on the corner of 30th Ave. S.W. and S.W. Dakota St. Another caller thought she had seen the suspect get on a bus at Delridge and Genesee, and yet another swore he saw a suspect head eastbound, up the stairs at that same intersection.
As some officers spread out in “roving containment” radiating from the abandoned vehicle in all directions, others called nearby schools to initiate lockdown procedures. Nearby buildings and homes were searched and cleared.
At one point, a female called in to say she believed her ex-boyfriend and “baby’s father with a history of weapons and violence” was involved. She gave police a specific address on Delridge, but when they checked the house they learned from the current tenants that the potential suspect hadn’t lived there for three years.
A plan to see an old friend already in place
Which direction Stawicki truly headed after abandoning the SUV may never be known, but when police received a call at 4:27 p.m. that afternoon – a half hour after he took his own life and after surveillance footage had been released to the public – fragments of what happened on the West Seattle end started to come into focus:
Stawicki, after fleeing the vehicle, was headed for the campus of South Seattle Community College on 16th Ave. S.W.
Seattle Police Detective Al Cruise took the call, and described the woman on the other end as “obviously emotionally distressed.” She told him her name (we won’t be publishing it), and told Cruise she was the ex-girlfriend of the man on the news “that just killed all those people.”
Pulled from Cruises’ report, she went on to explain that Stawicki, whom she’d known for 20 years and dated in a relationship that ended three and a half years ago, had been calling her over the last few days, trying to get into contact. He finally reached her at 9:15 a.m. on May 30, an hour and a half before he entered Café Racer.
“He said he wanted to visit with her at work and offered to bring her coffee,” Cruise wrote in his report. “She agreed.”
The ex-girlfriend lived south of Seattle, but traveled north to SSCC for her job as a maintenance worker.
An exact time and location wasn’t given, but Stawicki’s ex told police she was working out on the grounds when he suddenly appeared, wearing what she would later identify as the exact same clothes he was wearing in the Café Racer surveillance photos.
“Come on we have to go right now … we have to go!,” she recalled Stawicki urging. He was sweating and breathing hard.
She refused to go with him, but asked where he wanted to go.
Stawicki said he “had to go to Fort Lewis to retire,” and asked to borrow her phone so he could find the number to the military base located between Tacoma and Olympia. Unsuccessful, he asked her if she would be willing to drive him to a 7-11 in another part of West Seattle.
One police report shows an officer was assigned to roving containment in the SSCC area, including several swings through their main parking lot. SSCC spokesman Kevin Maloney said the school was not contacted by SPD, so they were not in lockdown during his brief time on campus.
“Since this tragic incident, South has continued to refine its Emergency Action Plan- including meeting with the SPD - to be prepared for these types of unfortunate events,” Maloney said in an email.
To the Junction
The two got into the ex-girlfriend’s truck and, as she told the detective, Stawicki started giving directions while incessantly fidgeting with a shoulder bag. She said he apologized for the inconvenience of giving him a ride, said nothing of the lives he had just taken, and was “not acting like he just shot someone.” While she saw no weapons, police reports show he was still heavily armed with a loaded handgun and several backup cartridges in the pack and on his body.
Several twists and turns later, and the ex-girlfriend told police she believed they had arrived at the 7-11 convenience store where California Ave., Erskine Way and Edmunds St. meet (the southern portal into West Seattle’s shopping, dining and congregating core).
Suddenly, she said, as they approached the parking lot, Stawicki changed his mind and directed her four blocks west to 46th Ave. S.W. He directed her to stop in front of a specific house along a residential stretch.
“(He) points to it and says he has five daughters in that house, and he needs to go in, and she needs to go with him,” Det. Cruise wrote. “She has never known him to have any kids (he did not) and she realized at that point that something is really wrong with him. He starts to get out of the car and she rapidly accelerates with the door still open and drove away from him.”
It was the last time she would ever see Ian Stawicki.
Community testimony fills in some blanks
Of the 350-plus pages of documentation the Herald received from SPD, three of Stawicki’s next moves were not included in detective narratives, but relayed to the community from those who came into contact with him. (Update for Aug. 6 - SPD Homicide Detective Steve Wilkse confirmed the following events from his investigation as well).
At 1:40 p.m., around an hour from when he abandoned the vehicle on Delridge Way (12:45 p.m., according to police), the trail picks back up when Stawicki entered the West Seattle Nursery and Garden Center on California Ave. S.W. where he purchased a blueberry plant and seed packets, according to manager Marcia Bruno who recalled Stawicki as acting “creepy” in multiple media accounts.
Several blocks to the south, a hairdresser on California Ave. S.W. (who asked not to be named when interviewed by the Herald) said Stawicki appeared outside her salon just before 2 p.m. Moments before, she said, her husband called to tell her a gunman was on the run in West Seattle and she should lock her business down to be safe, which she did.
Her entrepreneurial spirit kicking in, she said she opened the door for Stawicki. Holding a blueberry plant in his hand, “He said it was his daughter’s birthday. He said, ‘I need to get a trim and make it look good for my daughter.’”
She said he calmly requested a quick trim of his beard and hair. While performing the cut, she said she noticed tiny specks of blood on his forehead, lips and chin but didn’t think much of it because, “You know guys, they pick pimples …”
Before leaving (she estimated 15 minutes had elapsed) he asked to use her phone book and wrote down someone’s name, address and phone number. He borrowed her phone and tried to make a call.
“Did you get the person you were calling?” she asked.
“No,” he replied, “the phone was busy, but I will get to them.”
The timeline once again drops off, but one of Stawicki’s next moves was to visit the home of North Admiral resident Patricia Guenther, a longtime teacher who taught Stawicki 25 years ago at Summit K-12 on 34th Ave. N.E.
Five days after the shootings, Guenther proactively sent out a statement to citywide media to ask for privacy and to explain what happened. An unsigned, generic thank you card, the blueberry plant and seed packets were left on her porch. She said she did not know they came from Stawicki until media reports started emerging about the plant, at which time she contacted police.
“No person, no neighborhood, no community is immune to being touched by tragedy,” Guenther wrote. “Please be compassionate with each other as we each process this recent heartbreaking event in our city in our own way.”
While the grieving for those lost to Ian Stawicki’s rampage will persist for many years to come, and memories of them will last beyond our lifetimes, the damage dealt from a man who lost control would come to an end at 4 p.m. that day, May 30.
Det. Scotty Bach, a West Seattle resident and member of SPD’s Special Operations Bureau, was scouting for Stawicki with four photos of him from the Café Racer shooting. Pulling off of Fauntleroy Way S.W., he entered the residential Fairmount Park neighborhood in an unmarked police car and saw a man walking ahead of him. Keying in on his shoes and pants, he was nearly certain it was Stawicki and called for backup.
Courtesy of SPD
Image of Ian Stawicki taken from surveillance footage at Café Racer in North Seattle, where he took four people’s lives.
Southwest Precinct Officer and West Seattle resident Scott Luckie heard the radio callout and realized he was close to the intersection of 37th and Raymond where Stawicki was walking. Bach had pulled back, afraid to blow his cover, when Luckie came around the corner and found himself driving alongside their suspect. He stepped out of his squad car and readied his firearm.
“Stop,police!” Luckie recalled yelling in his report. “I ordered the suspect to show me his hands …”
Luckie said Stawicki dropped to his knees, pulled a gun from his waistband area, “and then … shot himself in the head.”
As Luckie cautiously approached he could see the man who took so much from Seattle was still moving as dozens of additional officers converged on the bloody scene that stood in sharp contrast to the well-kept, landscaped lawns of Raymond St.
The gun still in Stawicki’s hand, Luckie stepped on his wrist to ensure he couldn’t fire off any last shots. Moments later, he was handcuffed.
Later that evening, the gunman succumbed to his self-inflicted shot.
Along with the Remington .45 handgun holding a magazine of seven live rounds recovered from Stawicki’s hand, SPD inventory documents show he was capable of firing many more shots. Inside his blue satchel was a black GAP jacket, turned inside out, with an unfired cartridge in a pocket (the report doesn’t say specifically, but this may be the jacket he was wearing at Café Racer). Six more loaded pistol magazines were stashed inside the bag.
Photo by Kimberly Robinson
Stawicki’s backpack and gun lay on a Fairmount Park neighborhood sidewalk. Inside that backpack were several more fully loaded cartridges. Stawicki took his own life when confronted by police in West Seattle.
The list continued:
Black cotton gloves, green wool pants (turned inside out), underwear, two travel size toothbrushes, dental floss, a plastic black comb and Oxy spot acne treatment.
His driver’s license, his Department of Veterans Affairs ID card (serving from 1988 -89), a Dixon Hamby photography card (a well-regarded, Seattle-based iPhone photographer) and a total of $4.18 between his bag and clothes.
Three handwritten notes, the first of which read “Heather / Top” followed by a series of numbers resembling a partial phone number.
The second, a note with Patricia Guenther’s (Stawicki’s former teacher’s) address and phone number scrawled down, likely from the hairdresser’s phone book a few hours before.
And one, final handwritten note:
“Military Intel relating to today regarding U.S. and Russian relations – I wish to discuss this in a private setting – Please it is important to me – P.S. send for armed personnel.”