May 30, 2012

Murders and shootings in Seattle are way up this year. By May, the number of shootings had already reached that of the entire year of 2011. Most of the shootings have happened in the usual south-end neighborhoods, and I myself have been in the crossfire twice. I live in what’s considered to be the Central District (CD) but, because I live over Leschi Ridge on Lake Washington, I tend to lump myself in with the posh Madrona and Madison Park neighborhoods that are just a couple miles north of me. What a difference a couple miles can make. I frequently travel a few miles south into the Rainier Beach neighborhood because the Safeway there has a gas station. (With my club card points I sometimes save a dollar a gallon) My only other option is all the way across the city in Ballard. I’m fully aware that “Rainier” is one of the most dangerous, gang-ridden, gun-happy ‘hoods in the city but, I take a chance in order to save a dollar a gallon on gas. A few months back, I was checking out at Safeway when an alarm went off. I then noticed one of the two police officer’s assigned to the store, headed toward the front doors.

Safeway Gas Station at 9662 Rainier Ave. S.

He told the checkers to keep everyone inside. Turns out, there was a gunman outside shooting people at the bus stop in front of the store. A man in his 20’s was hit in the leg. Once the officer determined none of us inside were at risk, we left and went on with our business. I was definitely shaken up but I in no way thought about not going back. I thought “What are the chances of that happening again?” Well, a few weeks later, it did. This time I managed to shop, pay, and leave the store with no incident. I also filled my tank, threw away some garbage, bought an apple juice, and picked out a new CD for the short drive home. Just as I was pulling out of the station, shots were fired and a 29 year-old man and a 15 year-old kid were hit.
Cafe Racer July 2012
And I've still been back. Do you know how much gas costs right now? Enough that I’m risking my life to save a few bucks. (Do you hear that big oil companies, you crooks?) Well, on May 30th, I learned that no neighborhood is immune, even sleepy Ravenna, just north of the U District. Around 11am a handful of people were drinking coffee and reading books and magazines at Café Racer, a quirky little coffee shop favored by artist types at 5828 Roosevelt Way.
Surveillance camera footage
40 year-old Ian Stawicki had been a regular at the café but had recently been 86’d due to argumentative and erratic behavior. When he walked in that morning Len Meuse, a cook there, politely told him he’d have to leave. Ian then asked Len if he could get a coffee to go and Len told him it’d be on the house. As soon as Len turned around to get the coffee, Ian fired at him, hitting his left armpit. The bullet pierced his lung, grazed his liver and kidneys, and barely passed by his heart and spinal cord. Len was on the floor behind a bar and could hear the gunshots as Ian shot people one by one; Drew Keriakedes, Joseph “Vito” Albanese, Don Largen, and Kimberly Layfield.
Police and Aid at the scene
When he was done, he went around the room again, giving everyone another shot. Len was hit in the head this time. That bullet shattered his jaw, broke several teeth and ripped up his tongue, which had to be sewn back together. Two other men had been in the back of the café and called 911. A ton of cops arrived quickly and went door to door on nearby residential streets looking for the gunman. At 11:30am, a call came in about a possible car-jacking on First Hill, several miles south of Ravenna.
Gloria was parked under the windows
A woman had been shot in a parking lot behind Town Hall at 1119 8th Ave. According to witnesses, she was hit and kicked by a man she was arguing with. During the struggle, the man dropped a pistol, then picked it up and shot her point blank in the head. The man jumped into her black Mercedes SUV and fled the scene. Gloria Leonidas, a 52 year-old mother of two, died at Harborview Medical Center, two weeks shy of her birthday. Within a half hour, police found her car, abandoned in the 4100 block of Delridge Way in West Seattle with a handgun inside. A tip soon came in that the suspect was seen boarding a Metro bus.
The abandoned Benzo on Delridge
A woman at a West Seattle salon claimed she gave the suspect a haircut earlier in the afternoon. A swarm of officers went door to door in that neighborhood too. It wasn't until 4 that afternoon that a plain clothed officer spotted the suspect near SW 36th and Morgan Street, just a few blocks from where Gloria’s car was abandoned. As police closed in on him, he shot himself in the head. As suspected, it was Ian Stawicki.
SWAT closes in
No motive for the shooting is known but Ian’s brother, Andrew said he was mentally ill and was a very angry man. It's still unclear how Ian got from Ravenna to First Hill. After everything that Ian did to him, Len Meuse was quoted as saying he was glad Ian was “finally at peace.” Amazing. The killings brought the 2012 Seattle shooting deaths to 21. By May of 2011, there had only been 3. RIP, café patrons and Gloria. Take care, Len.