By Irfan Shariff
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Justice for Donnie is justice for the whole community,” said Seattle Police Department (SPD) Deputy Chief Carmen Best, at the fourth community update on Donnie Chin’s murder investigation held on Aug. 23. More than two years after Chin’s murder on July 23, 2015, there is still no resolution for the Chinatown International District (CID) community. Best said that no arrests have been made over the course of the investigation.
“Twenty-five months ago, we lost a valued and beloved member of the community,” said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, who hosted the event at the Nagomi Tea House with members of the International District Emergency Center (IDEC). “The community has been left in the dark.”
Chin founded the IDEC in 1968 to make the CID a “safe and healthy place to visit, live, and work,” said Richard Mar, board chair of IDEC. Mar worked with Chin at the IDEC for over 40 years. IDEC will turn 50 next year.
“I was worried no one would show up,” said Mar. “Two years is a long time for us to keep up these efforts. We want justice for Donnie … reality is, I’m not sure how close we are.”
The last community update was held in November 2016, where then-Assistant Chief Robert Merner detailed SPD efforts and said they were “very close,” according to Santos. Merner, who served as the lead contact for the family of Donnie Chin, left SPD in June. The family and community were not made aware of his departure.
“This is simply not acceptable,” said Santos.
Attendees at the event included SPD West Precinct officers, King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, local leaders, and mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon. The SPD West Precinct and Council Member Joe McDermott’s district include the CID. McDermott has attended every community update.
Santos was explicit to the community in her reasons for inviting the mayoral candidates: there is going to inevitably be a new chief of police. Current chief Kathleen O’Toole’s term ends with Mayor Ed Murray’s term. O’Toole was not in attendance.
We want a chief who is “much more focused with their covenant of trust with this community,” she said.
Deputy Chief Best spoke on behalf of SPD, in what was referred to as “the hot seat.” She spoke of plans to review current evidence, including statements and shell casings, against a network across the country to find any matches.
“We will go where the evidence takes us,” she said.
Best announced plans to convene a gang-related homicide task force, which will include the Chin case. The task force, which has not been officially announced or detailed, will include federal partners.
“We are working very hard on this case and we are not letting it go,” said Best. She reassured the crowd that “this is not a cold case.”
Best detailed that there are two detectives on the case. While they handle multiple cases, they look at the Donnie Chin case every day.
When asked how the community can help, she requested people come forward. “There have been a lot of anonymous tips,” she said. “We know it was gang-related and that somebody has information … Somebody out there knows something.”
“We are asking that if someone provided anonymous tips, that they also provide contact information. SPD cannot easily confirm anonymous tips and requires sources to corroborate information,” said Best. She ensured that tipsters will remain confidential.
Santos and the community attendees were not aware that SPD received any anonymous tips.
“The community doesn’t know how to help,” said Mar. “We are not empowered” and the only advice is to leave a tip with Crime Stoppers.
“It is the responsibility of the police to identify the killers,” said Mar. “Unless we maintain visible pressure until the killers are caught, people will forget.”
Over the last two years, Mar has noticed some improvements in the CID, including a greater police presence. Best and Mar believe this is in direct response to previous community updates, where a special task force was convened to heighten security in the area.
“We feel like small potatoes,” said Santos, reiterating a community member’s comment at the end of the event. “The community is [still] grieving, hurting, and seething.”
On the evening of and days following July 23, 2015, over 100 CID community members marched behind a banner titled, “Justice for Donnie.” The same banner sat in the background of the most recent meeting to remind everyone that the efforts to “establish accountability and keep the public informed” have not been met. ■
If you have a tip in this case, call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.
Irfan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.