Walt Stawicki stood and looked around outside Seattle’s Cafe Racer, where his son started a horrific killing spree one year ago Thursday.
“Sometimes you have to keep that sort of numb feeling,” he said. “I have good days and I have bad days.”
Ian Stawicki was a very sick young man when he opened fire inside Cafe Racer, killing four people, and then shooting a woman in the head in a downtown parking lot before killing himself.
At the time, Stawicki’s father said he feared something like this would happen, but he couldn't get the help his son needed. In the days after the shooting spree, Stawicki called for tougher laws to get the mentally ill off the street before they turn violent. A year later, he's sickened by the continued bloodshed across the country.
“Every place is the front lines today,” he said. “Anybody who doesn't think every place is the front lines isn’t living in reality."
In retrospect, many see Cafe Racer as Seattle's Sandyhook Elementary. It opened a lot of eyes to just how serious a problem the dangerously mentally ill can be.
Since then there has been some progress in Olympia, but it is incremental. The biggest advance is a law that that makes it easier to have someone committed to a mental hospital against their will, if there is a history of violence or the person appears to be spiraling out of control.
The law has actually been on the books since 2011, but has never been funded. Beginning next year, it will be. Other laws passed this year give emergency room doctors more say in whether violent psychiatric patients should be released from the hospital. There are also now additional requirements for the release of mentally ill criminals.
“You're either going to pay to pick up a crime scene or you're going to pay to prevent a crime scene,” said Walt Stawicki. “Which do you want to pay for?”