In his first interview since his wife was fatally shot by Ian Stawicki, Tom Leonidas thanked Seattle for supporting his family through their grief.
Tom Leonidas had just finished a lunch meeting May 30 when he saw a news alert on his phone about the shootings at Cafe Racer.
He immediately thought about his wife, Gloria Koch Leonidas, but figured she was OK because she wasn’t in Northeast Seattle that day. She was downtown.
But minutes later in his car, he got a phone call and remembers hearing five words that would change his life: “I have some bad news.”
After shooting five people, four fatally, at Cafe Racer in the University District, Ian Stawicki somehow made it to a parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street adjacent to Town Hall. There, he encountered Gloria Leonidas, shot her and stole her SUV.
Most Read Local Stories
- Big gap between Pfizer, Moderna vaccines seen for preventing COVID hospitalizations
- Wondering why society went off-kilter during the pandemic? It was all predicted in this book
- 2 killed in crash on I-90 after car hydroplaned, officials say
- Seattle-area residents should prepare for wild weather ahead, forecasters say
- Washington state workers are getting exemptions to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine — but will they keep their jobs?
In the days and week that followed, the family has declined to speak with local media, but Friday, Tom Leonidas arranged a news conference to talk about his wife.
“She was a fighter,” he said. She could be spontaneous, and once she made up her mind she never looked back, he said. He’s sure that’s why she fought Stawicki when he tried to take her SUV.
Even though she was pushed to the ground and beaten, she kicked the gun out of his hand, detectives told Tom Leonidas.
“I truly think the fact she gave such a hard fight really gave someone time to see the plate,” Leonidas said. He said police activated the SUV’s inboard GPS to track it and Stawicki to West Seattle where, confronted by police, he fatally shot himself.
Leonidas said he and their two daughters, ages 12 and 16, know that no one can ever know why Stawicki did what he did, but they do want to know more about that day, and about what might have been done to prevent the tragedies.
He doesn’t believe that Stawicki, with a history of mental illness, should have been allowed to have a gun, but he also doesn’t want responsible owners to have their rights restricted.
Recalling how his wife disliked people who complained, but offered no solutions, he said he hopes that someone can find ways to prevent such killings in the future.
Right now, though, the family is more focused on a different challenge — finding a new normal, he said.
“One of the things that’s helped us with this is we’re not grieving alone. The whole city is grieving.”
He thanked the Seattle Police Department for its respect and hard work, the good Samaritans who rushed to his wife’s side, local news media for their sensitivity, and all those who’ve left notes or flowers at his wife’s memorial.
He hasn’t been to Cafe Racer yet to see where her attacker started his crosstown rampage, but said he will.
“There were other victims,” he said. “And we have to be respectful of the fact that (the shooter’s) family lost a loved one, too.”
Jayme Fraser: 206-464-2201 or firstname.lastname@example.org