About Us| Issues & Campaigns| Media| Get Involved| New to the Issue?| Donate

June 7, 2012

"It's no surprise to me this happened. We could see this coming."

On May 30, 2012, Ian Stawicki walked into Cafe Racer in Seattle, Washington at approximately 11:00 AM. The staff there recognized him immediately. They had kicked him out of the establishment on several previous occasions "for being drunk and picking fights with bar musicians." "He was a real loud mouth. Just super negative. Swearing and cussing real loud ... He was consistently not all there," remembered the owner of Cafe Racer. This time, they asked him to leave again. Stawicki, 40, began to walk toward the door, but suddenly pulled out one of two handguns he was concealing, shooting his first victim in the back of the head. He then approached the bar and began to shoot other patrons, execution-style. A deputy chief with the Seattle Police, who reviewed store video of the shootings, said he'd "never seen [anything] more horrific, callous and cold." Stawicki would shoot five people before taking a hat off one of his victims and leaving. Four of them died: Joe Albanese, 52; Drew Keriakedes, 49; Kimberly Layfield, 38; and Donald Largen, 57. Only Leonard Meuse, 46, would survive his injuries.

But Stawicki wasn't done. Fleeing the cafe, he confronted Gloria Leonidas, a 52-year-old married mother of two, and beat her physically before shooting her in the head, killing her. He then stole her SUV and, according to a 911 caller, ran over her with it. As he sped away, he gave the finger to those who came to Leonidas' aid.

Shortly after 4:00 PM, police finally found Stawicki on the street in West Seattle. As they approached him, Stawicki knelt on the ground and shot himself in the head. He was dead. It was over.

Shortly after the shooting it was revealed that Stawicki had obtained a concealed handgun permit in the state of Washington in August 2010 and legally purchased at least six handguns. This was despite a lengthy history of violence that included the following:

* A 2010 arrest for fourth-degree assault after he told his brother he "was blind" because of him and then began punching him in front of their mother. Andrew Stawicki would stop talking to Ian after the incident, but prosecutors dropped the charges after the family showed little interest in moving forward with the case.

* A 2008 arrest for domestic violence interference when he followed his girlfriend home from work and became enraged that she stopped off to visit a female friend instead of proceeding straight home. Stawicki returned to the home they shared and "destroyed every single thing in the home" that belonged to his girlfriend. When she returned home and tried to call the police, he punched her in the face and took her phone. When she retrieved her phone and escaped outside to her vehicle, Stawicki hid from police in the bushes outside the home and buried his .45-caliber handgun in a hole to hide it. An officer at the scene found a Miller Beer can among the debris in the home "with a small, neat, round hole through it." Stawicki was issued a no-contact order that prevented him from coming within 500 feet of his girlfriend. The felony charges, however, were dismissed after his girlfriend suddenly recanted her story two months later.

* A 1989 arrest for unlawfully carrying a weapon (a switchblade knife) in public.

In addition, Stawicki's family made it clear that he had long suffered from mental illness. Walter Stawicki said of his son, "I recognized the patterns. I saw him as being manic-depressive." "He was really angry toward everything," his brother said. Ian Stawicki also suffered from delusions. He told his girlfriend he was married and the father of six. He told others he was a member of a CIA death squad. But the family never pushed to have him committed because they never heard him threaten to hurt himself.

The family did, however, attempt to have Stawicki's concealed handgun permit revoked. When they contacted law enforcement, however, "the response to [them] was, there's nothing we can do, he's not a threat to himself or others, or we haven't had a report of it, or we haven't had to pick him up—call us when it's worse."

Law enforcement wasn't simply being indifferent to the family's plight. They were powerless to act. The "Shall Issue" permitting law in Washington, written by the National Rifle Association (NRA), prevents the state from denying a concealed handgun permit to anyone who meets a basic set of criteria. And because Ian Stawicki had never been involuntarily committed nor convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, he met those criteria. After the shooting, Stawicki's brother would say, "It's no surprise to me this happened. We could see this coming." But it didn't matter. The discretion that law enforcement should have had to protect public safety in such clear cases had been stripped by the NRA and their allies in the Washington state legislature.

Stawicki now becomes at least the 20th concealed handgun permit holder to have committed a mass shooting since May 2007. Meanwhile, the NRA pushes to weaken laws governing the carrying of guns in public even further. Their new preferred method is to do away with permitting, screening and training requirements for gun carriers altogether. Four states have adopted this approach so far (Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming) and the results were seen when another severely mentally ill mass shooter, Jared Loughner, freely carried a gun to a supermarket parking lot to meet his Congresswoman in January 2011.

Meanwhile, the survivors of gun violence are left behind to pick up the pieces. "There are some people who should not own a gun," said Nina Schumacher, the niece of one of the victims killed by Stawicki. "It can be a devastating thing." Linda Albanese, whose brother was gunned down in Cafe Racer, was even more blunt. "This maniac had possession of guns and killed my brother. It's wrong," she said.