The only survivor among those shot in a Seattle cafe massacre said Monday that he had just politely told a customer he’d have to leave and turned away to make the man a free cup of coffee to go when the first bullet was fired.
“This is a guy that I’d been told to eighty-six, can’t serve him. I had to tell him that,” Cafe Racer cook, and lone shooting survivor Leonard Meuse told Q13. “Pretty sure I was the first one hit, went down like a light switch.”
Meuse told KOMO-TV that the first shot on May 30 hit his left armpit, piercing a lung and grazing his liver and his kidneys, just missing his heart and spinal column.
Ian Stawicki had been banned from the cafe for earlier behavior, and Meuse gave him that message when the man walked in.
“I very politely told him that,” said Meuse, 46. “He asked, ‘Can I get a coffee to go then?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, no problem. In fact, I’ll buy it for you, you’ve always been nice to me.’ ”
Recently released from Harborview Medical Center, Meuse recalled collapsing, knowing he’d been shot by Stawicki and listening as the man shot other cafe patrons, fatally injuring four.
“I remember seeing someone next to me in the bar and there was fear in her eyes,” Meuse said.
It was clear to Meuse that Stawicki wanted everyone dead, shooting the victims once and “then he double-tapped everyone.” Finally came a second shot for Meuse, a bullet that shattered his jaw, broke several teeth and shredded his tongue, which had to be sewed back together.
“The quote that has been going around from my ICU trauma surgeon was that I basically won the lottery twice,” Meuse tells Q13. “Not only am I still walking and breathing, but I’m still me.”
Stawicki later killed a woman in downtown Seattle, then killed himself several hours later as police closed in.
After the shootings, police praised a customer, later identified as Lawrence Adams, for grabbing the only weapons at hand, bar stools, and tossing them at the gunman. After reviewing surveillance footage of the shootings, Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said that tactic created enough delay and distraction that two or three other customers managed to escape.
Adams, who was unhurt, later said Meuse was the real hero, phoning for help despite his gunshot wounds.
“He had the presence of mind as the captain of the ship to do his job,” Adams said shortly after the massacre. “He just kept doing his job.”
Meuse described Stawicki as “hot and cold,” quiet one minute, then inserting himself in others’ conversations, often loud and aggressive.
Stawicki’s father has said he suffered from mental illness for years.
“I’m glad he’s at peace,” Meuse said of the gunman.
For now, Meuse hopes to build up his strength and return to work at the cafe.
“I have to, because there is still community left and we need to heal,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.