By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Seattle Police have no leads as to who killed International District mainstay Donnie Chin. The 59-year-old Chin was fatally shot in the early morning on Thursday, July 23rd near 8th Avenue and South Weller Street in the neighborhood he protected for most of his life.
According to Seattle Police, 911 received calls reporting of multiple gunshots fired before 3 a.m. the morning of the 23rd. They found Chin in a car with the windows shot out suffering from gunshot wounds. He was taken to Harborview Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The police report indicates that Chin was not the intended target of the shooting. However, they do not have any leads as to why Chin was killed.
One theory is that hookah lounges which are open into the late hours of the night in the neighborhood may have been a factor.
Hookahs are flavored tobacco which has its roots in Middle Eastern culture. Many within the International District believe that these bars bring an unsavory element to the area. A group marched through the International District this week demanding that a hookah lounge near where Chin was killed be closed down. The owner of the hookah lounge is offering to add a security guard to the business to address some of the concerns of its neighbors.
The neighborhood concerns stem back some time. According to board minutes from the International District Special Review Board in 2011, there were reservations about the opening of hookah lounges due to late-night noise which would disturb neighbors. Some of these hookah lounges indicated that they were private clubs that served no alcohol and they would monitor the patrons and parking lot. There has been at least one incident where Seattle Police were involved in a shooting outside of a hookah lounge. That incident occurred in October 2013 at 7th and South Lane Street. No one was injured despite shots being fired by individuals and police.
Hundreds of people gathered at Hing Hay Park for a memorial Sunday night, July 26, to honor the memory of Chin. According to community leader Bob Santos, everyone at the memorial was devastated by the news of Chin’s death.
Devoted to the International District, Chin served as ad hoc security around the ID neighborhood since he was a teenager. He believed that police and medics had slow response times in the ID and so he helped out in his own capacity. Utilizing a police scanner, Chin was a “first responder” to many emergency issues in the ID. He founded and was director of the International District Emergency Center (IDEC). In addition to providing security, Chin helped the homeless and elderly. The IDEC was funded mainly by grants and donations.
Dicky Mar, a board member for IDEC, announced at Chin’s candlelight vigil that they are not seeking donations for Chin or IDEC at this time. The board is trying to figure out the next steps for IDEC as Chin was the leader of the organization. The Chin family is also determining what to do with direct contributions people want to make in Chin’s memory.
The Seattle Police Department collected evidence at the scene of the shooting although according to SPD Public Affairs Detective Patrick Michaud, they could not comment on the nature of some of the evidence at the moment. They have collected and reviewed video surveillance cameras near the scene of the shooting. Seattle police are in search for what they described as “a well-intentioned good Samaritan” who picked up evidence near the site where Chin was fatally shot.
Many within and outside of the ID community have expressed condolences for the loss of a great leader. Governor Jay Inslee stated, “[T]he ID lost its savior, its protector, its hero and a big piece of its heart. Donnie Chin was a man who dedicated his life to making Chinatown and the International District safe for everyone.”
“Donnie was a great community leader and his tragic death is a tremendous loss to Chinatown-International District, the broader Asian-Pacific Islander community, all of Seattle, and to me personally,” stated Mayor Ed Murray. He added, “I had the opportunity to work with Donnie over the years, including at our Find It, Fix It walk in the neighborhood last summer. His focus was always on the health and safety of others.”
Four gun-rights groups have offered a $4,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Chin’s killer.
CrimeStoppers of Puget Sound is offering another $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and criminal charges. Police are asking for the community’s help by asking anyone with knowledge of the shooting call the SPD Homicide TIP line at (206) 233-5000. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.