SEATTLE — Someone inside an artsy Seattle cafe where a gunman opened fire threw stools at the assailant during a shooting rampage police described as "callous, horrific and cold," 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.
Stawicki later killed himself as police closed in.
Police said more people could have been injured or even killed at the cafe were it not for the actions of the man, whom they identified only as "Lawrence." They did not say whether he was a patron or an employee.
"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, adding, "He saved three lives."
In an interview with authorities posted on the Police Department's online 'blotter,' the man said the shooting started right after Stawicki was politely told he was not welcome at the cafe.
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."
Police late Thursday released 911 tapes from the shooting spree, including one from a man who phoned authorities from inside a bathroom at the cafe.
"Somebody came in and shot a bunch of people. I'm hiding in the bathroom. We need help right away," the man says, adding he didn't see the gunman.
Initially, it doesn't appear that the dispatcher understands that the man is in the cafe. She presses him for a better description of the shooter.
"I can see people laying on the floor," the man says. "People are bleeding all over the place."
The dispatcher asks for more information.
"Sir, sir. I'm not the one driving out there so please answer my questions. This is serious," the dispatcher says.
After getting more detailed information, another man gets on the line with the dispatcher.
"We have people alive, barely alive here, do you have people coming?" the other man asks.
"Yes sir, we have a lot of people coming," the dispatcher says.
Wednesday's slayings 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 Police Chief Nick Metz said at a Thursday news conference after reviewing video footage of the killings.
The gunman's father struggled Thursday to understand how his son could have gone on a shooting rampage 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 told the Associated Press, 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."
The 21 homicides this year have the city's leaders wondering what if anything can be done.
"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."
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