Man who threw stool at shooter calls barista real hero
SEATTLE (MCT) — After his brother died in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Lawrence Adams vowed he “would never hide under a table,” in the event he were ever to face a deadly threat.
Adams honored his vow Wednesday when Ian L. Stawicki opened fire at the Cafe Racer, and in so doing, police believe, saved the lives of three customers.
“I just threw the frigging stool at him, legs first,” Adams told police.
Stawicki “looked at me like he didn’t (care) at all. He just moved toward 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,” he told police.
In an interview Thursday evening with The Seattle Times, Adams, 56, said the statement he gave the police is accurate, and confirmed that his brother, Stephen Adams, an employee at the Windows on the World restaurant, had been killed in the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Because of the trauma of his brother’s death and of the tragedies Wednesday, Adams did not want to give a detailed account of what happened at Cafe Racer.
But Adams was adamant on one point: He said he was no hero.
The hero, he says, was Leonard Meuse, the barista at the cafe who, even after being shot several times, got on the phone and made a call for help.
“The hero is Leonard,” Adams said. “He had the presence of mind as the captain of the ship to do his job. He just kept doing his job. ... Everyone should be thinking about Leonard. We have to put all our energy into him.”
What seemed like a normal morning of coffee and companionship turned deadly Wednesday in just moments.
Stawicki walked into the cafe just before 11 a.m. only to be told he wouldn’t be served because he’d been 86’ed from the coffee shop the week before, according to police and witnesses.
Stawicki appeared calm. But then, as another customer stood up and headed for the door, Stawicki rose to his feet and began shooting.
The first victim was the man at the door.
Stawicki then methodically fired on the defenseless people seated at the counter.
“He meant to get everybody in there,” Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said at a news conference Thursday, giving the first full account of the deadly rampage that left five people dead and stretched from the University District to downtown and ended with Stawicki’s suicide in West Seattle.
With video surveillance from inside Cafe Racer, police know exactly what transpired in the minute or so in which Stawicki turned the popular neighborhood haunt into a tableau of death. It also has shined a light on the actions of Adams and his lifesaving efforts to impede the massacre.
Another account of the horror came from Jon Dowd, 51, who had been sitting to the right of musician Drew Keriakedes, drinking coffee and reading the paper for about 40 minutes before heading upstairs to use the restroom.
When he vacated his seat, Donald Largen, took his place next to Keriakedes. Upstairs, Dowd set his sunglasses and his cellphone on the table. After he entered the bathroom, he heard a pop that he initially thought was a firecracker. But then he heard another pop and another. He opened the door and looked downstairs.
“I could see my friends lying on the floor and immediately ascertained what was going on,” Dowd said. “I beat it into the latrine and locked the door.”
His cell phone, however, was outside the door with his other stuff.
“I waited a minute, then ran out, grabbed the phone and ran back in,” he said. “I could hear people moaning and saying ‘Oh no.’ “
Dowd dialed 911 and reported, “... somebody came in and shot a bunch of people,” according to a recording released by police.
When he went downstairs, he said, “There was blood all over the place. I’ve never seen so much blood or such a gruesome scene.”
Dowd said he didn’t want to step over his friends, and stood there for a while taking in the horror while the 911 operator asked him to describe the scene.
Two women were hiding under a table, and a man had taken refuge in the kitchen during the shootings, Dowd said. All of those killed were sitting at the bar, he said.
“I was sitting right where Don was sitting,” he said, staring at the ground as he recounted the events Thursday night from a parking lot across the street from the cafe. “One more minute, and I would have been killed.”
By 11:02, police, firefighters and medics had been dispatched. They arrived four minutes later, Pugel said. Two people were declared dead at the scene and three others were taken to Harborview Medical Center where, later, two more died. Leonard Meuse is expected to survive.
Police do not yet know how Stawicki got to downtown Seattle, Pugel said. But the next shooting was reported 11:32 a.m. at Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street.
Gloria Koch Leonidas, 52, of Bellevue, had given a friend a ride to Town Hall, Pugel said.
Witnesses told police Leonidas had parked her Mercedes-Benz SUV, gone to the parking pay station and was on her way back to her car to put the receipt on her dashboard when she was confronted by Stawicki.
Pugel said it appeared she fought with Stawicki. She was hit several times before she either knocked a handgun from Stawicki’s hand or he dropped it, Pugel said.
Stawicki then shot Leonidas, got in her car and drove away, he said.
The SUV was found around noon near Delridge in West Seattle where, according to Pugel, a woman warned Stawicki that he had just parked in a tow-away zone.
“He ignored her and walked on,” said Pugel.
Police later learned that Stawicki then contacted a former acquaintance, he said.
The former acquaintance, who called police after learning of the shootings, told investigators that Stawicki was “acting erratically and talking nonsense,” Pugel said.
By midafternoon, still photographs that showed Stawicki’s face were pulled from the video surveillance at Cafe Racer and released to police and the public.
About a half-hour to an hour later, an undercover officer thought he spotted Stawicki, Pugel said.
“He called in uniformed officers” while keeping his eyes on the suspect, Pugel said.
When uniformed officers and detectives confronted him, Stawicki knelt on the sidewalk and shot himself in the head just before 4 p.m., police said. He died later at Harborview Medical Center.
Pugel said questions remain.
Police have not seen Stawicki’s medical records and do not know conclusively that he had a mental illness, as his family has said.
They have not traced the two .45-caliber semi-automatic handguns Stawicki used. They don’t know a motive and, in fact, doubt there is one.
Pugel said that he had rarely, if ever, seen any crime as horrific.
“This is completely senseless,” he said. “ ... In 30 years I’ve never seen anything like that.”