SEATTLE - Amid the horror of a shooting that left four people dead in a University District cafe Wednesday comes a story of a man whose actions prevented the death toll from being even higher.
"There is a hero, a man who was sitting next to the suspect when the suspect started shooting," Jim Pugel, chief of detectives with Seattle police, said at a news conference Thursday recapping Wednesday's events.
Pugel said that man picked up a stool at threw it at the suspect, who was later identified as Ian L. Stawicki. The same man then picked up a second stool and hit the suspect with it.
In that time, three people were able to run from the Cafe Racer and escape the hail of bullets.
"He saved three lives," said Pugel.
The hero, who SPD will only identify as "Lawrence" to protect his privacy, later told his story to Seattle police.
Lawrence said he's been getting his morning coffee at the cafe for the last few years and was sitting in the cafe when Stawicki came in.
"Just before it happened, I was looking at [Stawicki]. He’d just been told he was 86’d [from the café] in a very polite manner," Lawrence said.
Lawrence told police he looked down at his phone for a moment, and then, "I hear the pop, pop, and people scrambling. I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t expect the gun to be that quiet. I thought 'this is really happening.' "
As Stawicki opened fire, Lawrence grabbed a bar stool and used it to try to fight off Stawicki and defend his friends, police said.
"I just threw the frigging stool at him, legs first," he told investigators. "My brother died in the World Trade Center. I promised myself, 'if something like this ever happened, I would never hide under a table.' "
Lawrence said the gunman, "looked at me like he didn’t [care] at all. He just moved towards the rear of the bar instead of dealing with me at all, and I just brushed past him. He was on a mission to kill my friends."
He says he's not a hero, instead lauding the cafe employee -- wounded in the shooting -- for calling 911 and being able to give police crucial information about the shooting.
"He’s the hero," Lawrence told SPD.
Lawrence said he doesn't want to be identified right now, as he's trying to recover from Wednesday's tragic events.
"Yesterday, I was all adrenaline," he said. "Today, my friends are dead. I’m just grieving right now."
Carjacking victim fought her attacker
Drew Keriakedes and Joseph Vito Albanese were members of the band God's Favorite Beefcake. Both men were inside Café Racer Wednesday morning, and both were killed.
Albanese's wife, Kelly, is still in shock over the murder.
"It's like a kick in the gut," she said. "I just can't, I believe, I can't believe he's dead."
Two others, Kimberly Layfield and Don Largen, died later at Harborview. Layfield was an aspiring actress and dental assistant and Largen was an urban planner. Both were regulars at the cafe.
"My heart goes out to everybody that was involved in all the shootings, and I hold no animosity," said Largen's mother, Betty Parker.
The only survivor of the cafe shooting, Leonard Meuse, was upgraded from critical to serious condition at Harborview Medical Center. He remained in the intensive care unit Thursday, said spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
About a half-hour after the cafe shootings, Stawicki shot Gloria Leonidas, 52, of Bellevue near Town Hall because he wanted to steal her Mercedes SUV, police say.
But she did not go down without a fight, said Pugel.
He said Leonidas was able to knock the shooter's gun from his hand during the confrontation. But he managed to pick it up and shoot her, then took off in her vehicle.
Pugel said the suspect later contacted an old acquaintance of his in West Seattle who was not aware of the shootings. The old acquaintance later told Seattle police that the suspect was acting erratically and talking nonsense, so he broke off contact with him.
Later, when the acquaintance learned about the shootings and saw the surveillance photos of the suspect from Cafe Racer, he called police and told them what had happened.
About 35 minutes later, the suspect was spotted by a plainclothes officer who called in other officers.
As the additional officers moved in and challenged Stawicki, he put the gun to his head and killed himself, Pugel said.
Timeline of Wednesday's events: