A gunman identified as Ian Stawicki, 40, opened fire in a Seattle, Wash., café and a downtown parking lot, killing five, critically wounding one, and eventually taking his own life. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.
Updated 6:20 a.m. ET: SEATTLE – A man killed four people in a Seattle cafe and a fifth person in a nearby carjacking before shooting himself dead, police said late Wednesday.
The five victims brought the number of homicides in Seattle so far this year to 21, matching the total for all of last year, and left city leaders wondering what could be done to stop the bloodshed.
The suspect, Ian Lee Stawicki, was described by his family as mentally ill, news reports said.
For most of Wednesday, police didn’t know whether the shootings at a north Seattle café and a carjacking murder five miles away were related.
They only knew that a tall, white man with a trim, dark beard had entered a small coffee shop around 11 a.m. and shot five people, killing four. And they knew that half an hour later, someone had fatally shot a woman in the head and driven off with her black Mercedes SUV.
Immediately police issued a warning to residents of Seattle’s University District: Don’t open your door to strangers. Dozens of detectives combed the city, armed with images of a suspect standing alone in the Café Racer, one hand on his hip, another on an object that appeared to be a gun. In the image, stools were overturned, coffee cups spilled.
Police found the Mercedes abandoned in West Seattle, a neighborhood across town. A gun was in the driver seat.
Around 4 p.m., a plainclothes officer spotted Stawicki - a 40-year-old from Ellensburg, a college town in central Washington State who used to live in the University District, according to state voter records. He fit the suspect’s description. The officer called for backup.
When Stawicki saw a uniformed officer approach, he knelt down in the middle of the road and shot himself, Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center. Late Wednesday night, hospital spokesman Steve Butler confirmed to NBC News that the suspect died.
Within the hour, police announced that the shootings were related and that Stawicki was suspected of the Cafe Racer killings and of shooting a woman several times for her SUV.
Two men were killed and three more people were seriously wounded in a shooting at a Seattle cafe by a gunman who fled the scene on foot. KING's Linda Brill reports.
His brother, Andrew Stawicki, 29, told the Seattle Times that his brother was mentally ill.
"It's no surprise to me this happened. We could see this coming. Nothing good is going to come with that much anger inside of you," Andrew Stawicki told the Times.
The bodies of two men remained at Café Racer throughout the day. The woman died at the hospital, NBC station KING5-TV reported. A fifth victim also died at the hospital, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg told the Associated Press Wednesday night.
Café Racer, a coffee shop and restaurant known for its impromptu jazz sessions and diehard regulars, sits at the north end of the University District near the sprawling University of Washington campus. It is four blocks from Roosevelt High School, which was on lockdown as police searched for the suspect.
At the Trading Musician store next door, store manager John Herman said they didn’t hear any sounds until police converged on the scene.
“Our first customer of the day had just come from Café Racer, and he thought he walked out right as the person walked in,” Herman told msnbc.com. “He thought he saw the (shooter) but other witnesses say that he may have actually seen a victim.”
Trading Musician employees hang out at Café Racer, Herman said, and the store holds its holiday parties there. Herman said other Café Racer employees had arrived and were standing across the street. The owner had also arrived and had been escorted by police to the crime scene, he said.
The Emerald City, generally considered a safe place to live, had 19 murders already this year. Last year there were 20. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.
“They seem very upset, but I don’t know if it’s about the fact that it happened, or because they lost somebody,” he said. He said the Trading Musician was effectively closed, but that employees hadn’t left.
Ted S. Warren / AP
A Seattle police officer stands outside a cafe where gunman opened fire on Wednesday.
“We’re just waiting to find out what has happened to our extended family,” Herman said.
Ibrahim Frishak, who was power-washing a sidewalk across the street from where the carjacking occurred, said he heard gunshots and saw a car peeling away, The Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper, reported.
"I just got back a week ago from Libya on vacation to visit relatives," Frishak told the paper. Everyone over there carries guns, he said, adding, "Now I think Libya is safer than Seattle."
At an afternoon news briefing, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said he told police that their "highest priority is to find the shooters and bring them to justice." He also asked political leaders to look into gun laws and the culture of violence to see what can be done to keep weapons out of the hand of offenders.
Even before the shootings on Wednesday, Seattle was dealing with an outbreak of violence that has stumped police officials, who have blamed it on gangs and weapons. Wednesday’s shootings brought the number of homicides in Seattle to 19, nearly as many as 2011.
Last Thursday, Justin Ferrari, a 43-year-old software engineer, was gunned down while running errands with his children in the Central Area. No arrests have been made in that investigation. And over the holiday weekend, four-drive by shootings, one that left a bystander wounded, were attributed to gang activity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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