Bus Driver Killed By Shot To Chest -- Search Of Gunman's Apartment Turns Up Additional Guns, Knives

The driver of the Metro bus that plunged off the Aurora Bridge was shot twice before the bus fell, the first shot going through his arm and into his chest, ultimately killing him, Seattle Police said.

Driver Mark McLaughlin also was shot in the abdomen before the shooter, Silas Garfield Cool, 43, shot himself with a .380 automatic handgun, according to Seattle Police Capt. Dan Bryant, head of the Violent Crime Unit.

The bus plunged over the north side of the bridge, leaving three dead and 32 injured. This morning, county officials ordered flags flown at half-staff in McLaughlin's memory.

Cool, who had lived in Seattle since 1979, had resided in the University District since 1985, Bryant said.

When police searched his apartment over the weekend, they found the box for the automatic handgun believed to have been used in the shootings.

That gun and a second gun found in the bus wreckage were both unregistered, Bryant said.

But Cool's possession of the guns wasn't necessarily illegal and there was nothing in his background that would have prevented him from purchasing guns and getting a permit.

Also found in the sparsely furnished apartment where Cool slept on a mattress on the floor were two pellet guns, numerous knives including switch blades and hunting knives, and a large collection of pornography.

Cool had a series of menial jobs until 1991 when he stopped working, Bryant said. His father told police he had been supporting his son by sending him money and that his son was in a depressed state. Cool's parents told police their son had no record of mental illness.

In another development, Mountlake Terrace police said today that Cool was arrested Nov. 16 after leaving a swimming pool at the Mountlake Terrace Recreational Pavilion. The arrest came after a Nov. 9 incident at the pool in which a man had warned Cool to back away from his young daughter. The man said Cool had leered at his daughter, and when he saw Cool back at the pool on Nov. 16, he called police.

According to Mountlake Terrace Sgt. Mark Connor, when officers arrived at the pool, Cool gave the name Michael Freer, the name of his apartment manager, and was allowed to leave. However, the officer could not confirm the identity through records checks, so he arrested Cool.

Cool was booked into jail for obstructing justice because he had given police a false name, Connor said, and released the following day. Police were unsure of why he was released, but said it may have been because he gave them his real name.

One other passenger, Herman Liebelt, 69, died Saturday of head injuries and a pelvic fracture. Sixteen people remain hospitalized.

Keith Warnack, spokesman for the Puget Sound Blood Center, said today that response from the public was great after news of the incident. He said about 1,000 donors showed up at blood-center locations Saturday, compared to about 450 on a typical Saturday. More blood is needed though, he added.

Police posted Cool's photograph at a Metro bus terminal yesterdayin the hopes of gleaning evidence of a motive from other drivers who may have encountered him.

About the time the bus plunged over the side of the bridge Friday afternoon, Cool's 25th high-school reunion was getting under way on the other side of the country, in North Plainfield, N.J.

As word spread through their small borough yesterday that the man who committed the faraway crime might be the quiet boy they knew from high school, former classmates joined Seattle residents in trying to make sense of his violent demise in the apparent and spectacular murder-suicide.

Sobering end to weekend

It brought a pleasant weekend of dinner, dancing and reveling to a sobering end, as reunion celebrants tried to figure out what might have gone wrong since graduation.

They also wondered aloud whether the reunion might have played some role in the timing of the assault - and whether they could have done something to prevent it.

Anthony Muglia said he tried to reach Cool about the reunion through his parents, but never heard back.

Silas Cool had been in New Jersey as recently as five weeks ago, according to his father, KING-TV reported. His father said he had been withdrawn, according to the station.

A man who answered the phone at the home of Daniel and Ena Cool in North Plainfield declined to talk. Neighbors identified the couple as the parents of Cool. The man referred questions to the Seattle Police Department's homicide unit, where officers said they were still collecting evidence and would release no information until today.

Cool's parents live in a modest, one-story home in North Plainfield, in a quiet neighborhood with oak-lined streets, amid numerous two-story homes built a half-century ago.

Records from North Plainfield High School show that Cool was a B and C student and had applied to two community colleges in the area.

English teacher Ernest Jaeger, who taught Cool in a college-bound 10th-grade English class, learned about the shooting on television news last night. "I found it very hard to sleep last night," Jaeger said today. "People are obviously very different the rest of their lives than they were in the 10th grade, but he was really a nice kid and he fit in."

Jaeger said Cool was an attentive, good-looking young man who laughed at jokes, but at times had to be drawn out, which he said, is typical of 10th-graders.

Something of a loner

Richard McKenna, a biology teacher at the high school, said Cool didn't have a large circle of friends and was something of a loner, but showed no sign of problems.

"He was what I would call a straight-arrow kid, typical student, clean-cut, but you never know what's going to happen in someone's lifetime that would make them do something like he did in Seattle. I'm flabbergasted."

A check of gun permit records in North Plainfield showed no record of Cool requesting a permit. A check of court and police records show no juvenile or adult criminal history.

A neighbor reached yesterday said he hadn't seen Cool at his parents' house since he returned home for a brief visit six or seven years ago. Cool seemed agitated then, sticking his head out the door at one point to cuss at him about his dog, the neighbor said.

Cool's former classmates said they hadn't seen him since he graduated from high school in 1973. They described him as a good student who stood out only because of his height - over 6 feet.

Didn't drink or party

He wasn't the type to drink or party, they said. He'd occasionally get teased over his last name, but wasn't the target of classmate abuse.

"This is a little perplexing for many of us," said former classmate Dan Battista. "We was a very quiet kid. Not a troublemaker. . . . I guess his fortunes didn't do well when he hit the West Coast."

Another former classmate, Jeffery Martens, lives in Seattle. Martens got Cool's phone number from his mother after moving here in 1979, but never got a chance to look him up. At that time, Cool had a job, and his mother didn't seem worried about her son, Martens said.

Martens said he couldn't reconcile the contrasting images of the Silas Cool he knew as a youth and the person tied to the crime.

"To me, and I have no more insight than anyone else, maybe someone like that loses his job, and doesn't have many friends, and one thing leads to another," Martens said. "It seems to me like someone who got tired of life. Maybe too many bad breaks."

Cool was charged with two misdemeanors in the early 1990s. And a spokesman for the Union Gospel Mission said Cool stopped there for free meals on a couple of occasions in the past month.

He lived in an apartment on the northern edge of the University District. Patricia Sullivan, who lived below him, knew him only as "S. Cool" the name on his mailbox. She described him as reclusive. He covered two of his windows with aluminum foil and pinned the curtains closed on another, she said.

Apartment manager Michael Freer confirmed that police had been in the apartment since the shooting. Freer, who has managed the apartments for two years, would not give many details about his former tenant or what he might know of the investigation. He said he was shocked when he heard his tenant was a suspect in the bus shootings.

Tears adorn troll

Meanwhile, a white paper tear was taped yesterday to the corner of the eye of the Aurora Bridge troll, the well-known sculpture near the accident scene. Bouquets of flowers were strewn along its arm.

On one of the massive bridge supports, mourners had placed more flowers beneath an enlarged newspaper photo of bus driver McLaughlin and his fiancee.

Two accounts have been established at Washington Mutual Bank to assist the victims. One is the Mark McLaughlin Memorial Account, which will establish an educational fund for McLaughlin's two sons.

The other, the Route 359 Victims' Fund, will help pay medical expenses of the passengers. Donations may be made at any branch.

Seattle Times staff reporters Tan Vinh, Eric Sorensen and Chris Solomon contributed to this report.