Gunman's father puts his tears of grief to work
Since the shootings two weeks ago, which ended with Ian Stawicki also killing himself, his father has been going around the city talking very bluntly about what his son did. It's his way of grieving, maybe. But also to further sound the alarm.
Seattle Times staff columnist
A few days after Seattle's mass shooting, a man showed up at Cafe Racer in the University District to stand outside the closed cafe and just stare at it.
When he started to tear up a bit, a woman nearby asked him if he had known any of the victims.
"My son was the shooter," he replied.
"I try to be honest about it, wherever I go," says Walter Stawicki, 65, the father of Ian Stawicki, who killed five people in a gun rampage. "It was my son who pulled the trigger. And he did it because he wanted to kill people."
Since the shootings two weeks ago, which ended with Ian Stawicki also killing himself, his father has been going around the city talking very bluntly about what his son did. It's his way of grieving, maybe.
But also to further sound the alarm.
I caught up with him Tuesday at a Crown Hill church, at a meeting of Senior Parents Of Adult Children With Mental Illness. The group has gathered for 15 years to talk about how families can cope with someone who is mentally ill.
The elder Stawicki started with the group two months ago — six weeks before the shooting. But still, in retrospect, too late.
"They tell me not to feel guilty about it. They say, 'You did what you could,' " he said, gesturing inside the church. "They're trying to be supportive. But it feels to me like an easy lie."
Walter has returned to Cafe Racer three times. He visited the parking lot outside Town Hall where his son shot and killed a mother of two. He talked to neighbors in West Seattle where his son shot himself on the sidewalk after being confronted by police.
What is he looking for? He's not sure.
"This is all in my lap now," he says by way of explanation.
In the days since the shootings, Stawicki has learned he is a member for life in a loose fraternity nobody wants to be in — the parents of mass killers. He got an empathy phone call from the mother of Isaac Zamora, a mentally ill man who killed six people in a shooting rampage in Skagit County in 2008.
"She was warning me about the hate that's about to come down on us, because of what our son did," Stawicki said.
Besides some online comments saying the family should have done more and so has blood on its hands, there's been no hate.
"Seattle has been nothing but compassionate," he says, tearing up again.
He had called me to talk about gun laws.
He says it's "more true than you know" what I suggested in a column last week — that it's too easy to get a gun permit and to buy guns in this state.
It turns out Walter Stawicki, father of the shooter, was himself a gun dealer. He ran a gun shop out of his house in Ellensburg in the 1990s.
"You can be a raving street schizophrenic here and they won't do anything about your guns," Stawicki says.
He says we ought to pass a law triggering a gun review when someone is so much as arrested for violence, as his son was twice. (He was never convicted.)
Plus the state should at least ask about guns if someone is detained for being dangerous for psychiatric reasons, as they do in California. Here, state law does restrict gun ownership for the mentally ill, but only if committed to a mental hospital for at least 14 days.
"I'm a Ron Paul libertarian, so I'm supposed to be against the nanny state," Stawicki says. "But what we have is too far the other way. We have completely forgotten about the 'well-regulated' part of 'well-regulated militia.' "
Stawicki says he's going to push as hard he can now for more mental-health treatment and those gun laws. He says he feels like he owes more to the victims' families than "I'm sorry."
"This is what I'm doing now," he said. "I guess it's my new job."
With that he walked off into the soft rain. To continue tracing his son's cold trail around the city, and around in his head.
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or email@example.com.
About Danny Westneat
Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
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