By Teresita Batayola
ICHS President and CEO
Dear Mayor Bruce Harrell and Chief Adrian Diaz,
On Sunday, Oct. 9, at approximately 3:50 a.m., gunshots occurred outside the entrance of the Legacy House, an assisted living facility at 803 South Lane Street following altercations between groups of individuals. Approximately seven shots hit an International Community Health Services (ICHS) staff member’s parked car in front of Legacy House, and two shots hit the Legacy House building.
At this time, we do not know the nature or circumstances of the shooting. We are immensely relieved that no staff or residents were injured in the shooting. However, as you can imagine, our staff are reeling from the anxiety and trauma of random acts of violence.
Troublingly, when ICHS leadership filed a police report and inquired about how we can cooperate with a police investigation, we were informed that no case would be opened due to the fact that no one was injured in the shooting. Put plainly in the perspective of one staff member, the dispatcher notified us that this was a low-priority for them.
ICHS is deeply concerned about endemic gun violence and violent crimes in the Chinatown-International District (CID) neighborhood that threaten the health and wellbeing of our patients, staff, and senior residents.
ICHS’s flagship International District Medical & Dental Clinic is located at International Village Square, on 8th Avenue South and South Lane Street, along with our vision clinic and our assisted living facility, Legacy House, which also houses our senior services program, adult day center, and senior meal service.
This is not an isolated case. The CID regularly experiences gun violence and other violent crimes. We recognize that the shooting on Oct. 9, 2022 occurs in a larger context of two conditions that lead to public safety challenges.
1) High violent crime rates from recurring cycles of drug dealing, gang violence, and other illegal activities.
2) Late Seattle Police Department (SPD) response to 911 calls or no action at all, resulting in a cycle of longstanding distrust and skepticism about the City’s commitment to address the CID’s public safety.
All of this leads to an entrenched view in the CID that police will fail to follow-through in the wake of a crime and years-long strings of deteriorating public safety conditions.
Our staff repeatedly share their concerns for their own safety and wellbeing with us. Car vandalism and break-ins occur often in the area near our clinic. Just one example, in November 2021, in the middle of the day an individual smashed the windows of at least three vehicles on 8th Avenue South—right in front of ICHS’s clinic. The smash and grab recurs regularly in the CID.
ICHS staff have reported being followed when walking back to their car alone. Staff from Legacy House, our 24/7 assisted living facility, who work night shifts caring for our elders have especially expressed fear walking to their cars at night. Again, these are recurring incidents.
Public safety concerns are also heightened by the wave of anti-Asian hate crimes. During the pandemic, healthcare staff throughout the country have faced a rise in anti-Asian sentiment and actions. Asian-owned businesses in the CID have been targeted. Asian elders continue to face harassment on the street. Verbal and physical attacks are common.
In August this year, ICHS staff at the ID Clinic called 911 for a patient who was in crisis and had expressed intent to harm themselves. After two hours, there was no response from SPD. Upon calling 911 again, the dispatcher said that there were too many life-threatening emergencies and SPD was too busy to respond, despite the patient having confirmed suicidal ideation. The patient’s treatment team had to move forward with an alternative safety plan at the team’s and ICHS’s risk.
The lack of response from SPD poses a serious safety risk to patients and others who are experiencing a mental health related emergency. Unfortunately, this is not the first time ICHS has encountered a lack of response from SPD. On another occasion, SPD failed to respond to an outreach request for a suicidal patient, which resulted in a provider having to bring the patient to the hospital themselves. This posed a significant risk to the provider as well as the patient.
In another incident involving an individual on the sidewalk outside of the clinic, ICHS called 911 and requested help from the mobile crisis team. SPD responded instead and declined to provide any intervention.
Currently, ICHS staff report that they don’t find it helpful to call 911. And when SPD has been involved, staff have indicated that they were not positive experiences. The lack of police response or action in times of emergency is an entrenched challenge for public safety and everyone who lives, works, does business, or visits the CID.
The call for more police presence in the CID is not new. The legacy of Donnie Chin as a staunch protector of our neighborhood is built on a history of neglect by the City and late or non-responses to emergencies in the CID. And Donnie Chin lost his life in this effort. For decades, community leaders like the late Uncle Bob Santos have made direct calls to the Seattle Police Department. SPD needs to have more of a community presence in the CID, and the City must regard the public safety of the area at the same level as other Seattle neighborhoods.
We call on the City of Seattle to do more to ensure the public safety of our staff and the more than 8,000 patients we serve at the ID Clinic. We also call on the SPD to make a committed effort to become a part of the CID neighborhood. They must explore ways to be more empathetic and sensitive to different populations and create a culture where our community members feel more supported when interacting with police.