By Gene Johnson
SEATTLE — The father of the man who opened fire at a Seattle cafe struggled Thursday to understand how his son could have gone on a shooting rampage through the city and apologized to the families of the five people he killed.
Ian Lee Stawicki is believed to be the gunman who killed himself hours after the shooting Wednesday, the latest episode of gun violence in a city that has seen as many homicides so far this year as all of last year.
"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 ... I just hope they understand he wasn't a monster out to kill people."
Police, who have yet to publicly identify the shooter, say the gunman opened fire at an artsy Seattle cafe around 11 a.m. Wednesday, killing four patrons. As he fled, he gunned down a woman during a carjacking and took off with her SUV. Stawicki killed himself as police closed in.
"The city is stunned and seeking to make sense of it," Mayor Mike McGinn said. "I think we have to start by acknowledging the tremendous amount of grief that's out there from the families and friends of the victims."
The 21 homicides this year have the city's leaders wondering what if anything can be done.
"Why have these acts, these random killings occurred? I'm not sure we have the resources to tell you why," Councilman Bruce Harrell said.
In just over a month, a young woman was killed in a seemingly random drive-by shooting in a popular nightlife district and a father who was driving with his family was killed by a stray bullet fired during a fight involving people on the street.
While the city still has low murder rates, pressure is growing on the police to curtail the violence at a time when the department is facing accusations of excessive force. Police have told residents to expect more officers on patrol in high-crime areas.
McGinn said the highest priority would be addressing the "epidemic of gun violence that's plaguing the city." He said he'll look at redeploying officers, as well as legislation.
The gunman's family, meanwhile, is struggling with what could have been had they been able to get Stawicki help sooner.
Ian Lee Stawicki, 40, had suffered from mental illness for years and gotten "exponentially" more erratic, his father said, but family members had been unable to get him to seek help.
Walter Stawicki said he was "bitter" that it was so hard to get his son help.
"He wouldn't hear it," he said. "We couldn't get him in, and they wouldn't hold him ... The only way to get an intervention in time is to lie and say they threatened you. Our hands were so tied."
Walter Stawicki recalled a son who liked dogs, kids and plants. He joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school, but the Army honorably discharged him after about a year, he said.
Since then, Ian Stawicki had bounced around serving as a roadie for bands and helping his mother with gardening. Other than a couple of traffic tickets and a fistfight with his brother several years ago — charges were dropped — his son had no criminal record, Walter Stawicki said.
"When you knew him and he liked you, he was the best friend you could have. He was an old-fashioned gentleman," he said. "But when he was having bad days, he scared people."
Stawicki also said he knew his son had guns, but he was more concerned that Ian — a "bean pole" at 6-foot, 150 pounds — would get in a physical altercation and lose. "Because he sometimes got crazy, talking in people's faces," Stawicki said.
Stawicki last spoke to his son the morning of the shooting. He recalled a cheerful conversation. "He handed the phone to his mother and I said, 'Gee, he sounds in a good mood,' and she said, 'Yeah,'" he recalled.
A King County medical examiner's spokeswoman said her office might be able to release the dead victims' identifications Thursday. Police scheduled a news conference for later Thursday. Among the unanswered questions was how the suspect obtained a weapon.
The only survivor of the cafe shooting, Leonard Meuse, was upgraded from critical to serious condition at Harborview Medical Center.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press