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Seattle slayings suspect shoots himself as police close in

May 30, 2012|By Kim Murphy
  • A surveillance image of the suspect in the shootings at a cafe near the University of Washington.
A surveillance image of the suspect in the shootings at a cafe near the University… (Seattle Police Department )

SEATTLE — An explosive day of violence ended Wednesday when a man believed to be the one who shot five people in a university district cafe and a woman in a downtown parking lot knelt down in the street when surrounded by police and shot himself in the head.

“We strongly believe that this is the person that committed the homicides,” Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel told reporters after the dramatic face-off in West Seattle. The shootings left four people dead and two critically injured.

Among the three people killed at the Cafe Racer, near the University of Washington, were two men who were members of the group "God's Favorite Beefcake," which had performed over the weekend at the city's Folklife Festival, witnesses told KIRO television. One of the pair was a sword swallower and fire breather who often performed in local burlesque shows, the station said.

The cafe's chef was among the wounded, witnesses said.

Police initially were not certain whether the two incidents were related, although they occurred within half an hour of each other. Police obtained surveillance photos from the 11 a.m. shootings at the cafe, which showed a man with dark hair, a beard and a pale blue jacket.

The second incident, several miles away near the city's downtown lecture hall, initially appeared to involve a second gunman. In that case, which happened about 11:30 a.m., police said a man shot a woman and drove off in a black sport utility vehicle, which was found abandoned several miles away in West Seattle with a gun on the seat.

While a massive dragnet was underway in the neighborhood where the cafe shootings occurred, plainclothes detectives began combing the neighborhood where the SUV was found, Pugel said.

After police captured still images from a surveillance camera at the cafe, an officer at the scene in West Seattle saw a man who appeared to resemble the man in the surveillance photo, he said.

The officer called for backup. As uniformed officers and a SWAT team arrived, the man shot himself. The suspect was hospitalized in unknown condition.

Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson told the Los Angeles Times that witnesses identified an item carried by the gunman in both shootings that convinced them a single suspect was responsible.

"We now feel confident in connecting the two," Pugel told reporters.

The four dead Wednesday brings to 20 the number of homicides this year in Seattle, which has been troubled by a sharp escalation in gun violence, which Mayor Mike McGinn vowed to do everything possible to reverse.

“We’ve had two tragic shootings today that have shaken this city, and it follows on the heels of multiple tragic episodes,” McGinn said at a news conference. “I have made it clear to the police department that it’s their highest priority to find the shooters and bring them to justice … and to try to bring an end to this wave of gun violence that our city is seeing.”

A police source told the Seattle Times that the suspect has been identified as Ian Lee Stawicki, 40, of Seattle, whose family said he had mental problems that prompted them to fear something could go wrong.

“It's no surprise to me this happened," his brother, Andrew Stawicki of Ellensberg, Wash., told the newspaper. "We could see this coming. Nothing good is going to come with that much anger inside of you.”

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kim.murphy@latimes.com

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