By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Sadness, anger, and frustration were just some of the emotions from a community meeting with the Seattle City Police, and state and city officials, to update citizens on the search for the killer of community activist Donnie Chin. Friends of Donnie Chin, members of the community, and those who work in the International District (ID) were present at the Nagomi Tea House on June 23 to get answers.
Unfortunately, officials had no real response to the central issue of finding the person that took Chin’s life.
“No one wants to find the killer more than myself,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. Almost a year has gone by, but O’Toole reassured the room that police investigators continue to work the case.
“I wish I could tell you tonight that we had a suspect in custody or that we have a warrant for somebody’s arrest. But that is not the case.” O’Toole was hesitant to give out details of the investigation so as not to tip anyone that played a part in the crime.
O’Toole noted that the two detectives assigned to Chin’s murder investigation are from the API community. One of those detectives was a close friend of Chin. “Not only are they invested as police officers, they are invested as his friends,” O’Toole stated.
“I ask for people’s patience and I’m here to reassure them that we’re not going to forget.” O’Toole added that the investigators are working on the case daily. She indicated that the police have very good leads and information which could lead to the eventual perpetrator.
Chin was gunned down in his vehicle in the ID in the early morning of July 15, 2015, while responding to a report of gunfire. Seattle Police believe that Chin was the victim of crossfire between rival gangs. They do not believe he was the primary target.
Chin spent most of his life dedicated to his community in the ID. He led the International District Emergency Center (IDEC) and assisted the area with safety issues. He worked with the police, fire and medical units of the city to ensure the neighborhood was in good care. Since his death, the community has felt a void. Many feel that community safety has deteriorated without its guardian on duty.
Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and the IDEC were the hosts for this community update. “This community lost its soul,” Santos said of Chin.
Many of those that spoke to city and state officials expressed their frustration with the investigation and the lack of information it was receiving from authorities. There was a perception that the police were holding back information, which O’Toole dismissed.
Crime was another major issue brought up by many of those that spoke at the meeting. One long-time resident described the ID as “the Wild West,” based on the perceived uptick in crime. The issue of homeless encampments near Chinatown also came up as many associated the crime problem with the growing number of those living near the I-5 overpass. Many voiced their belief that there is a lack of police presence in the neighborhood. O’Toole noted that there is a plan in place to add more officers in the area, which would include them walking the neighborhood, not just patrolling in a car.
Chief O’Toole told the Northwest Asian Weekly she thought the meeting would be contentious and was surprised that people were respectful and polite. She said she is eager to work with the community.
On June 16, a small park near 7th and Lane was renamed the Donnie Chin International Children’s Park in honor of Chin’s commitment and service to the neighborhood.
Community members hope city officials will go beyond just honoring Chin with a park.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.