Donnie Chin, director of the International District Emergency Center, was fatally shot early Thursday morning in the International District, reports say.
Chin had patrolled and monitored the International District for decades, saying that ambulance services were slow to respond to 9-1-1 calls, according to a story in the Seattle Times.
He started his patrol decades ago as a teenager after seeing the need in the neighborhood where he was growing up, said longtime friend Teresita Batayola, chief executive officer of International Community Health Services.
“It was in-bred in him. He was a kid in the International District,” Batayola said.
Chin also ran the 100-year-old Sun May gift shop in Canton Alley, which his family has run for decades.
“He wasn’t in it for commerce,” Batayola said. “It was a way for him to make a foothold in the community.”
The gift shop was covered in flowers in tribute to him on Thursday.
The organization he directed, the International District Emergency Center, offers emergency service assistance and patrols and monitors the International District for suspicious and dangerous activity, 24 hours a day, according to its profile on the Seattle Foundation website. It offers security and first aid at community events such as the Bon Odori, International District Street Festival and the Chinatown parade.
Chin and his organization worked closely with the Seattle Fire Department and the Seattle Police Department.
Early Thursday, police officers found Chin after they responded to reports of gunfire around 3 a.m. near 8th Avenue and South Weller Street, according to a news release from the Seattle Police Department.
Chin was suffering from gunshot wounds and was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died, police said.
International District resident Susan Yu said she was saddened to learn that Chin died. Yu said she got to know him by seeing him in the afternoons as she picked up her children from school.
“In Chinatown, he’s helped the Chinese people so much, with anything,” she said.
“My heart is … not good,” Yu said.
The Seattle Police Department’s homicide is investigating the shooting and investigators do not believe Chin was the intended target of the shooting.
However, residents of the International District have expressed concern about late night and early morning activity in the neighborhood. Recently, hookah lounges have become popular, and they often close later than bars, filling the streets in the wee hours of the morning, residents say.
Batayola said Chin was concerned about the hookah lounges, and the late night activity, but she said issues of public safety in the International District have a history spanning decades.
Batayola added that Chin was street smart on his patrols, and was vigilant about staying safe.
“He trained our staff in personal safety,” she said.
Police ask anyone who witnessed the incident or has related information including possible photos or video, are asked to contact the SPD Homicide TIP line at 206-233-5000.
Multiple organizations paid tribute to Chin, including the Seattle Fire Department, which offered a crossed-ladder tribute on Maynard Street.
A number of local leaders also paid tribute to Chin.
Mayor Ed Murray:
“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. As co-founder of the International District Emergency Center, he dedicated his life to making the Chinatown-International District – the neighborhood he loved – a safe place for all. 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.”
Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole:
“I was shocked and saddened to learn of Donnie Chin’s death. He was a wonderful friend to the SPD and will be sorely missed. We join his family and friends in mourning this terrible loss. We will also work tirelessly to bring his killer to justice.”
The Asian Counseling and Referral Services posted a tribute to Chin on its Facebook page:
“We lost a hero. Our hearts grieve along with our community. We all loved and respected Donnie, a community organizer, community builder, and community leader who looked out for, and watched over, our youth, seniors, and other vulnerable members of our community in the I.D. for 45 years. He promoted public safety, protected the community, and was one of the community’s beating hearts. He gave his life for our community, and we will never forget him.”
Former King County Executive Ron Sims posted the following message on Facebook:
“This news makes me very sad. This is such a great loss. Donnie was an extraordinary human being. To know him, to meet him, and to talk to him was good medicine. He made you feel good! I simply can’t believe he’s gone.”
Gov. Jay Inslee:
“[T]here’s no doubt, as his friends have said today, that the 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. He had been doing that since he was a young man because he saw a need and he filled it.”
Congressman Adam Smith:
“I am deeply saddened to hear about the death of Donnie Chin. As the director of the International District Emergency Center, Donnie helped provide critical support and emergency services to the International District and he will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Editor’s note: this story has been updated with reaction from the community.