May 30, 2012, was a Wednesday. It was a beautiful sunny Spring day in Seattle.
I attended a weekly case review at the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. The ME would go over cases in a Powerpoint presentation and discuss findings, unusual issues, and the like of various death scenes. I attended these weekly meetings for several years and was often the only law enforcement representative there.
In the middle of the meeting at about ten thirty in the morning, my cell phone blew up. When I answered, the administrative assistant in Homicide told me that there had been a mass shooting at the Café Racer at Northeast 59th Street and Roosevelt Way, several blocks north of the campus of the University of Washington.
I jumped in my unmarked police car and raced to the scene.
When I arrived, the scene was chaotic. A dozen police cars, fire engines, medic units, and other emergency vehicles blocked Roosevelt Way.
A patrol sergeant briefed other detectives and me.
“A guy was seated at the bar,” he said—the Café Racer was a coffee spot during the day and a bar in the evenings— “He suddenly pulled out a gun and began shooting everyone in the place. We have several dead inside and more transported to Harborview.”
I stood at the front door of the business. There were large pools of blood covering the floor. I could see bodies near the rear. Spent handgun shell casings littered the floor.
More detectives were arriving. We discussed how we would approach the scene when Bob Vallor, my sergeant in Homicide, approached me.
“Cloyd, we just had a shooting downtown at 8th and Seneca. They’re calling for Homicide to respond. Would you go there and see what’s going on?”
“Sure,” I said and went to my police car. I activated my lights and siren, navigating through traffic backed up because of the activity at the scene.
Traffic is always bad in and around downtown Seattle on a weekday, but I made it to the scene in about twenty minutes.
When I arrived, a sergeant at that scene briefed me.
“A woman was going to a business meeting at Town Hall,” which was the name of the building where the shooting took place.
“She parked her car and was walking away from it when a white male approached her and just shot her in the head with no words or warning at all. The suspect then drove away in her car, a Mercedes SUV.
“Medics took her to Harborview, but she was DOA.”
The scene consisted of a large blood pool in the parking lot and a single fired shell casing.
I got down on my knees and looked at the headstamp on the casing. It was a .45 ACP.
I called Vallor at the Café Racer scene.
“What caliber are the rounds at that scene?” I asked.
“I’m not sure yet. CSI is just entering.”
“Let me know when you find out,” I said. “I wonder if these two scenes might be related. This is a lot of violence for a Wednesday morning in Seattle.”
“Will do,” he said before hanging up.
My partner, Jason Kasner, had taken off early. On the way to the downtown scene, I’d called him.
“Get your butt back in here. The shit’s hitting the fan.”
He arrived at the Seneca Street scene. A minute later, Vallor called back.
“These are .45s,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure this is related then,” I said, though I wondered if the shooter could make it from there to this location in that short amount of time without the aid of lights and sirens that I had.
A short time later, we got word that the downtown victim’s car had been found parked on Delridge Way in West Seattle, the complete opposite side of town from the Café Racer.
We raced to that scene.
Dozens of other officers were scouring the area, guns drawn, looking in the backyards of houses to see if the shooter was nearby.
After pulling the surveillance video at the Café Racer, the shooter was identified as Ian Stawicki. He was a regular at the bar who had recently been barred from going there because of bizarre behavior.
After clearing that scene, we went to our office to sort out what we had.
We were only there a short time when we heard that Stawicki was spotted walking in a residential area of West Seattle by an undercover detective who had been driving the streets looking for him. We switched our police radios to the frequency that covered that area.
Soon after, officers reported that shots were fired at the scene.
I jumped in my car, along with prosecutor Jessica Berliner, and for the third time that day, I raced, lights and sirens on, to the scene.
We arrived to find the suspect in the back of a medic unit. He had been declared dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
We looked at him and confirmed that it was Ian Stawicki.
Stawicki had a history of mental illness. His family had tried in vain to have him committed as a danger to himself and others. The mental health system failed him, his family, and the victims of his rampage.