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'Hero' at Seattle cafe threw stools at shooter

Stephen Brashear / Getty Images

Maggie Ritnour lights a candle at a makeshift memorial at Cafe Racer in north Seattle Thursday as Kara Bazzi looks on.

Updated at 8 p.m. ET: The regulars at Café Racer in north Seattle were by all accounts a welcoming group that embraced free spirits, but Ian Stawicki, the man suspected of fatally shooting five people Wednesday before killing himself, seemed “creepy” even to them, according to SeattlePI.com. One night he fought with musicians, the news site reported, and another night a bartender wanted to kick him out for behaving belligerently.  

And yet, one of the cafe regulars may have invited Stawicki to his home days before the shooting, according to the Stranger, an alternative Seattle weekly.

Stranger reporter Brendan Kiley, who attended a wake for two of the men who were shot, wrote in a blog post about a man he referred to as D, one of the victims: “People at the wake said D had invited the man over to his home just a day or so ago, trying to make some kind of connection. (D was, by all accounts, a nice guy.) But D’s wife, they say, wanted the man to leave because he was acting oddly and scarily.”

For reasons still unclear, Stawicki entered the café at 11 a.m. Wednesday and opened fire. He shot five, killing four of them. Police released two images of Stawicki from a camera inside the café: One of him approaching, shoulders hunched, eyes directed at someone behind the counter; patrons sitting on stools at the bar, drinking mugs of coffee.

The second is of him, alone, apparently surveying the scene. The image is fuzzy, but he appears to be holding a gun in his left hand. Stools are overturned.

King County Sheriff's Department

A police booking photo of Ian Stawicki dated March 31, 2008.

Veteran police officials were chilled by the video from the shootings, which Deputy Chief Nick Metz called "horrific and callous and cold."

At a press conference Thursday Jim Pugel, the chief of detectives for Seattle Police, provided some details about what happened during the time that those two images were taken.

Before 11 a.m., Stawicki walked into the cafe and sat at the bar. When Stawicki pulled out his gun and started shooting, the man seated next to him threw a stool at him. He picked up another stool and threw that.

"Two or three people made their escape and the suspect was between them and the door," Pugel said, calling that man a hero. "He saved three lives."

Within minutes, Stawicki, 40, bolted for downtown Seattle. Thirty-two minutes later, he carjacked a woman with a black Mercedes SUV. He had two 45-caliber semi-automatic weapons and shot her several times. She died at the scene.

Stawicki shot himself as officers approached in West Seattle, a neighborhood across town where the Mercedes SUV had been found, according to the Seattle Police Department’s Twitter feed.  

How Stawicki obtained the gun is unclear, said Reneé Witt, a Police Department spokeswoman.

“The detectives have not identified that part of the puzzle,” Witt said.  

Whether he was legally allowed to posses a gun also remains unclear. Stawicki’s family told the Seattle Times that he apparently had mental health problems but that he had not sought treatment. Had he been involuntarily committed, he would have not been allowed to own a firearm, according to state law.

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