SEATTLE — A man inside an artsy Seattle cafe where a gunman opened fire threw stools at the assailant, police said Thursday, a move that allowed others to run to safety.
Ian Lee Stawicki was armed with two .45-caliber handguns and began shooting Wednesday morning at Cafe Racer, killing four people. Police said he fled and later killed a female motorist, taking off with her SUV.
As police closed in on Stawicki, he killed himself, they said.
Police said more people could have been injured or killed at the cafe were it not for the actions of the man identified only as "Lawrence."
"The hero picked up a stool and threw it at the suspect. Hit him. Picked up another stool, as the suspect is shooting and now pointing (a gun) at him, and hits him with another stool," Assistant Chief Jim Pugel said.
"During that time, two or possibly three people made their escape," he said.
Lawrence told police he picked up the stool and threw it, legs first, as the shots rang out.
"My brother died in the World Trade Center," he said. "I promised myself" if something like this happened, "I would never hide under a table."
The killings further frayed nerves in an already jittery city that has seen 21 homicides so far this year, as many as Seattle had in all of 2011.
"In my almost 30 years in this department, I've never seen anything more callous, horrific and cold," Deputy Chief Nick Metz said at a news conference Thursday after reviewing video footage of the cafe shootings.
The gunman's father struggled to understand and apologized to the victims' families.
"The first thing I can say, and it doesn't go very far at this point, is I'm so sorry," Walter Stawicki said, his voice quivering. "It sounds so trite, that I feel their grief."
Ian Stawicki, 40, had suffered from mental illness for years and had gotten "exponentially" more erratic, his father said, but family members had been unable to get him to seek help.
A memorial in front of the cafe grew Thursday. Two of the victims, identified by friends as Drew Keriakedes, 49, and Joe Albanese, 52, were musicians and regulars at the cafe.