When Walt Stawicki talks about his son, he tells the story like a dispassionate anchorman might read the news: cold and removed. On May 30, Ian Stawicki shot and killed five people, killing four of them, and then finally turning the gun on himself.
It’s a painful reality that Walt has come to terms with, which is how he can speak about it so calmly. Calling the experience “hell” doesn’t really capture the the torture it’s been, he says.
Mostly, however, the tragedy isn’t something he wants to be quiet about because the Stawicki family knew that Ian was living on the edge.
“It’s not PTSD, it’s CT – continuous trauma. Waiting for it, waiting for it, hoping that it’s not today,” Walt told 97.3 KIRO FM’s John Curley. “It’s living in a war zone where war hasn’t broken out.”
As far as Walt knew, the indications on May 30 were not pointing to Ian’s breaking point. Walt said he learned from Ian’s girlfriend that he seemed pleasant when he took her coffee order that morning.
When he was asked to leave Cafe Racer, where he had trouble many times before, Ian opened fire. When he found himself in need of a car afterwards in downtown Seattle and he couldn’t get it, he killed again. As he tried to make his way to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, according to Walt, he wandered into West Seattle. Finally, as he was confronted by police, he snapped one final time and turned his gun on himself.
“We knew there were ticking time bombs,” he said. They thought he might have been beaten to death for doing something like telling someone they were a dumb idiot to their face.
“I’m past the point where I feel like I can cry about it. I’ve done what I can do about feeling sorry about it in that way. I’m telling you what I’ve come to in my head. That’s the facts. The bare facts about it.”
It’s a wild card, according to Walt. “Please don’t let Ian be the permission for other people,” he said, “Society is highly charged with people who have issues in their lives. Some have mental issues, others don’t.”