More than two months after the murder of International District Emergency Center director Donnie Chin, Seattle Police have yet to make an arrest. Chin was murdered on July 23 when he came into the crossfire of two separate groups of shooters, according to the SPD.
While both groups have been identified by detectives, an arrest cannot be made without someone from the two groups cooperating with police, said SPD Assistant Chief Bob Merner at a public safety briefing in the ID on September 23.
About 50 members of the community attended the meeting organized by SCIDpda. Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim and other city officials were in attendance.
Merner described a two-pronged approach to solving the case involving efforts from homicide investigators as well as separate investigations into the illegal activities of the two groups involved in the shooting.
“Our idea is to put constant pressure on both sides till we can use these alternative investigations to get people to come forward and try and identify who the shooters are involved with Donnie’s case,” Merner said. “And just so folks understand, this not only takes place here in the ID, we’re following these individuals in other parts of Seattle as well as into other parts of King County. So whether some of them are operating in places like Tukwila or Kent, we’re working constantly with our partners there. Our investigators are constantly targeting these two groups.”
Merner said the shooting that took place during Chin’s murder was not the first time the two groups shot at each other. He also said there was no “racial divide” between the two groups.
“We can play semantics, it was two different groups from two different sections of the city,” Merner said. “You can call them gangs, you can call them groups, but we know that they have an ongoing beef between the two groups and that the night that they had shots fired down here when they were shooting at each other was not the first time that these two groups had encountered each other.”
Merner said SPD’s current strategy is key in gaining leverage on individuals in the group in order to make an arrest in the Chin murder investigation.
Community comes together
At the beginning of the public safety meeting, Jamie Lee and Sokha Dahn of SCIDpda announced that they had put together a packet of 34 letters from community members—including nonprofits, businesses, and property owners—voicing public safety concerns. Ten copies of the packet of letters were delivered to Mayor Ed Murray and each Seattle City Council member.
“We really wanted an opportunity for this community to voice their concerns around public safety and around the issues that we deal with in their own words and really tell that to the city,” Lee said.
For other members of the community who wish to submit their letters to the public safety packet, it is not too late, Lee said. Letters can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think what’s important about these letters is this is the first time I think since the tragedy from this summer this community has come together in one unified response and saying that we’re here for this neighborhood and we’re here for this community and these are the things we want to see,” Lee said.
The letters in the packet called for a single police precinct for the International District, public safety locations where SPD develop authentic relationships with the neighborhood, a park ranger substation, a holistic strategy on providing health and human services to the homeless and drug-addicted population residing in the ID, responsive multi-lingual and multi-cultural data reporting, equitable allocation of city resources that includes the ID’s safety concerns, an operational work group with the mayor’s office, and a community public safety forum hosted by the city.
“IDEC has always targeted its services to the community’s most vulnerable populations, the elderly, the homeless, the limited English speaking, the youth, and the poor,” said IDEC board chair Dicky Mar in one of the letters. “Donnie created services where there once were none. The recommendations identify several areas where programs need to be developed or enhanced to support these populations. And lastly, Donnie was able to establish a relationship with first responders unlike any in the country. It was built on trust, collaboration, and partnership. The participation and support of the police and fire departments in events following the tragedy are a testament to this relationship. To move forward, it is now up to the City to establish a similar relationship with the community to create a neighborhood that is vibrant, safe, and welcoming while preserving its cultural and historic heritage.”
The mayor’s office has yet to respond to the recommendations listed in the packet.