On the morning of May 30, 2012, 40-year-old Ian Lee Stawicki walked into the Roosevelt neighborhood's Cafe Racer and opened fire with a .45-caliber handgun. By the time he stopped, four people were dead and another lay critically wounded with a gunshot to the face.
Minutes later, Stawicki took another life near Town Hall, and then belatedly took his own in West Seattle. Nick Metz, then SPD deputy chief, said of the Racer surveillance footage: "In my almost 30 years in this department, I've never seen anything more horrific and callous and cold."
Soon after Racer reopened, owner Kurt Geissel declared guns wouldn't be allowed on the premises. Harassment and threats poured in through the telephone line and internet for months. "I had some 'witty banter' with some gun nuts," he says. "You know, I know people with guns, and they're okay, but some of these people are just plain unreasonable."
A few months after the reopen, a man started pacing the sidewalk outside, cursing and lobbing threats. SPD eventually quelled him.
Regulars are oxygen for Cafe Racer, and the victims of that crime had been a daily presence. Geissel has always been close to his clientele. He's a constant fixture at the spot, and he knows most by name. That's why a few weeks ago, he finally bought a handgun.
"I bought this thing off the street," he says last night, not 20 feet from where the unthinkable happened. "This is a gun that was probably never tracked. No one knows where it came from. No one knows where it would've gone. [I bought it] off the street, you know—friend of a friend. Thing is, I put out the word that I wanted a gun, and seven or eight hours later, I was buying it out of the trunk of a car."
Geissel's designs on the gun were different than you might expect, though. The first thing he did was clamp it into a pair of vice grips on the front yard of his North Seattle home and put a chop saw to it, grinding until it was halved.
"It took about three minutes, and I was really reefing on it," he says. "I usually let the blade do the work when I cut things, but with this I was really going for it—really just manhandling the tool. I was... in a state. I was like: 'I'm not just gonna let this go. I'm gonna destroy this thing.' It was pretty powerful."
"It was really hot," he says of the finish. "I thought I'd pick it up, but it burned my fingers, so I got a piece of cloth and picked it up. It was smoking. You can see in the video it was smoking afterward. It was pretty cool."
At this point, Geissel breaks down but keeps talking. "It's something I've really wanted to do for a long time. I've always wanted to do some sort of gun buyback—just destroy them, or something—because I can't change the Constitution; I can't write a law... Just do something. Maybe this means nothing. One of our customers said the other night, 'Why didn't you just take that money and donate it to an anti-gun organization or something?' And I thought, 'Not only is this actually doing something symbolic, it's actually fun'"
"The coolest thing I could imagine after this," he says "Is a bunch of other people posting videos of smashing or cutting up guns."