SEATTLE - As friends of those killed at Cafe Racer clean up the sidewalk out front, it’s clear that the memories of what happened here can never be washed away.
Walter Stawicki has come here several times over the past few weeks to talk with those close to the people his son Ian killed. But when he approached the scene today, the sidewalk hosed down and smelling of bleach, Stawicki had to turn away.
“I can’t do it,” he said. “There are days I’m driving down the road and I have to stop because I think I’m going to throw up.”
He has received care and compassion from many in this North Seattle community, but still, he says, “There's no comfort in knowing that you did everything you could. That is no comfort at all.”
Stawicki is now on a mission to fix the broken system that failed his son and the 5 other people who died the day. He says his son was "disintegrating" before everyone's eyes, and the fact that a mentally ill person must be deemed an "imminent threat" to himself or others before being involuntarily committed for a psychiatric evaluation is like allowing a time bomb to keep ticking. “Wives, children, best of friends, neighborhoods...it's too late for all of those people when the system finally notices that something should've been done.”
Something was done last year when a law was passed that could've kept Ian Stawicki off the streets. 2SHB 3076 changes the threshold for involuntary commitment from an "imminent" threat of harm to that of a "substantial" threat.
“It’s the difference between someone holding a knife to their throat, and someone knowing that they’re planning to do it,” said Christine Lindquist, Executive Director of the Seattle chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
That law, however, never took effect because there is no money in the state budget to fund it.
“There are a lot of people who are slipping through the cracks right now," said Lindquist.
People like Ian Stawicki.
His father ends our conversation with an ominous warning. “I don't think it's going to happen again, I am positive. We have a system that ensures it's going to happen again.”