In the early morning hours of July 23, ICHS and the entire Chinatown International District Community lost a very dear friend.
Donald “Donnie” Chin, founder and director of the International District Emergency Center, was fatally gunned down by still unknown assailants while onboard his car, literally a stone’s throw from the ICHS International District Clinic.
ICHS mourns the senseless murder of Donnie Chin, who faithfully protected our neighborhood for decades. We will never forget his volunteer efforts, especially in the early years of ICHS, helping our staff bring medical care, food and other necessities to the residents of the International District. We hope that justice will be found for Donnie, and offer our condolences to all who have been affected by this great loss.
Below are heartfelt statements from members of the ICHS family who were moved to share their words of remembrance, gratitude, and tribute to Donnie for having their lives touched by his caring, protection, and genuine love for ICHS, the community, and its people.
“Donnie, you will be always remembered as the most humble, caring, self-sacrificing person I have ever known for this community. And God knows.” — Name withheld by request
“Donnie was always available whenever and for whatever he was asked to help with. He had a big heart and he had a way of making everyone feel like a friend. When he said “you can call me anytime, here’s my cell number” you knew that he meant it.” — Michael McKee
“Donnie – Our Hero! You have risked your live to make sure ICHS staff and patients are safe when we need help. I can not say “Thank you” enough for what you have done for us! You will always be in our thought!” — Kia Truong
“He escorted me around ID Chinatown since 1978 to make sure I feel safe. He always showed me the good stuffs at his mother’s gift shop and gave me a reasonable price. His smile and jokes will always be in the deepest center of my heart.” –Irene Chen.
“Donnie Chin was like a Batman for the C/ID–always there to help someone in need. Although Donnie didn’t know who I was, I definitely knew who he was. I first met him as a newer staff here at ICHS when I attended his ID Safety Training. After that first training, I made sure to attend each subsequent annual training he provided. Donnie had a very unorthodox style of teaching, but it was very effective–and very entertaining! His engaging trainings aside, what I admired most about Donnie was his commitment to serving others–he was a community leader with a servant’s heart. I never saw him without his khaki uniform, utility vest/tool belt, and walkie-talkie. I always felt safer knowing he was around watching over the C/ID and its residents. We miss you. Rest in peace, Donnie.” — Sunshine Monastrial
“When I first arrived in Seattle in 1997 I had the opportunity to volunteer at ICHS’ ID clinic where I would often see this guy dressed in khaki and, in the colder months, a jacket in a shade of green only seen in law enforcement. His belt supported a number of large objects including a key ring with many many keys and his vest pockets were filled with things like a radio and a variety of other items. He was a constant presence in the ID as well as at community functions in area hotels such as the Hyatt, Westin and Sheraton. I thought he was a bit odd but I always felt reassured by his presence.
After joining the ICHS staff in 2009, I signed up for one of Donnie’s safety presentations. On the day of the training Donnie arrived with an assortment of items he had confiscated in the ID. These included several firearms including some rifles as well as large blades and other dangerously sharp objects. His presentation was laced with profanity but filled with advice that I have never forgotten.” — Grace Wang
“Donnie was a great historian and educator. He took our new nurse practitioner residents on a tour of the ID to learn about our community’s past and present. For the next 4 hours he took us through the streets of the ID painting a picture that dated back to Seattle’s early beginnings to ID’s current struggles and successes. He introduced us to several of the leaders in the community. There wasn’t a person in the ID who did not welcome Donnie into their place of business. We were privileged to have gotten the opportunity to learn about our community through Donnie’s eyes. I don’t know if I had ever felt so much a part of this community until Donnie so lovingly brought us into it. He brought so many of us together and protected us at the same time. Thanks Donnie.” — Chris Yee
“Donnie was a kind man who was always watching over everybody at ICHS. When I was getting off from work during the winter, I saw him on the street. He stopped me and asked where I was going. I said I was going to my car so he escorted me to the car. Because of him, I felt safe. He was always accessible and helpful to the clinic. Whenever we call 911 to transport a patient to the hospital, He arrived to scene before EMS. Donnie devoted his life to the community. He is the greatest. It is hard to find someone like him.” — Roselee Tang
To my dear friend Donnie
July 23, 2015
I took a long walk from Pioneer Square when I came back from SL, it was a beautiful Thursday afternoon, not too crowded. I was hoping I would bump into you, just like old times and have our conversations on the side walk like always. I know you’re around here, but I just can’t see you anymore. I walked passed by the scene and stopped there for a moment, in my head I was singing “see you again”.
Donnie, something happened today and you weren’t here.
I don’t think you knew my name but it didn’t matter much to me, because I knew yours. I knew you when I was working on the Emergency and Safety project. I was drawing and mapping out all the emergency routes at our Eastern Hotel Office. Then I discovered the wall behind all the mystery doors in the basement. I saw a whole wall with posters of events held at ID. It was quite nice artwork. And I bumped in to you in the narrow hallway. I asked you, “do you know who made this?” I pointed to the wall. You said, “I did.” I was amazed at your collection.
I called you many many times and you were always there. I’ll always remember how everything you said had an “s” sound to it.
I came to your BBQ last year. I stopped by late after my trip to HP. It was after 2. Everyone had left. You showed me around your emergency cave. I saw piles and piles of packages full of emergency supplies in a narrow space and hallway (enough for a small person like me to get through). I said, “it was very unsafe here, how do you get around when an emergency happens?” You said, “s…I know my way…” We went back to your tiny seating area. I sat down and ate, I didn’t know you could cook, how do you have that kind of time? You said, “s…I had too eat too.” I asked you if you ever had time to rest, we talked for a while and laughed. I told you i would bring something to your next BBQ…at the end, you told me to take some food home, I did, and just so you know, I ate it all.
Our last conversation was a month ago, we bumped in to each other on the side walk near Childrens Park and started our street conversation, you said, “s…I tried to come and give your staff more intensive emergency training. It took 2 to 3 days.” You continued on about how to pack and carry a dead body. I said, “we would make it happen, maybe early August or September. I will call you and work out the details.” I want to call you, but I know you won’t answer any more.
I went to the Community meeting today at Legacy Hall. It was packed. I stayed outside in the hallway and wondered if you might show up like you always did. The door was very loud every time someone walked in and I turned my head to check if it was you. I couldn’t hear anything being said inside the room, but it was fine. I wanted to be there the way you always were to all the events, no matter if it was small or a big. You would come with your “first aid” kit roller. I remembered I asked you one time at our gala several years ago why you brought it everywhere. You said, “s…things happen” …That night, I actually went looking for you for bandages and antibacterial ointment. Since then, I always packed a first aid kit to our picnic and holiday party, like you, just in case.
Donnie, something happened today and you didn’t answer your phone. I just wanted to know it wasn’t you at the shooting this morning. I’ m so sorry…now I know you won’t be able to answer your phone any more. Sleep tight, my friend.
I wrote this letter to my dear friend, Donnie, just in case when I’m older and don’t remember. I don’t want to not remember him. I wanted to pass on to my friends, my kids, and family, that I knew a hero and his name was Donnie. — P.L.
“Though I have known for a long time that I wanted to work in community health, it has been hard to put into words exactly why. But last week when standing at the community meeting sharing in the collective shock and pain over Donnie’s death I found myself remembering the beautiful lessons about community that Donnie exemplified.
It’s hard to know how to write about Donnie. How do you put a person like him into words? I don’t think you can comprehend how large a person’s physical life is until they are gone and the enormity of it sinks in. I remember so vividly to tour Donnie took us on. I had been in the ID many times before but Donnie made it come alive. He had this knack for telling history with a mix of vivid passion and profanity telling stories about racial injustice and the legacy of people in the ID who would otherwise be forgotten. He was the one who introduced us to the ID and moreover to our community. He welcomed us, he oriented us, he shared with us the history of the community. As an outsider, he weaved together a beautiful picture of what the ID meant and helped me understand the context from which our patients come from. Moreover, it was evident that he was a vital part of hold this web of interconnectedness together.
People like Donnie don’t exist anymore. I feel a pain from his passing not only because of what he meant to me in the short time I knew him, but moreover, for what he stood for and what he meant to the community. He was the community storyteller, historian, secret keeper, mentor, police officer, first responder. He was Donnie. He didn’t even need his last name, he was just a figure, somebody who was known by everybody. Just last week as we were leaving the clinic we heard noise coming from Donnie’s ally. It was music, people, art, and food. It was community. And it was beautiful. Donnie welcomed us, gave me a big plate of delicious meat, we talked for a bit, and then I moved on to let him get to the umpteen other people who wanted to say hi. That’s my last memory of him. And I am sure there are thousands more stories of the big and small acts of kindness he did for others. I want them to be cataloged just like the history he so carefully kept of the ID.
He had an unquenchable drive to keep the community together and safe at all cost, against all odds. He was raw, real, he brought the streets to life and made the walls of old buildings whisper stories of the past.
What is community? Sometimes it’s hard to put into words until you feel the profound loss of one of its members, when you loose its pulse, when you feel the emptiness, and struggle to put into words what that one person meant to so many. Thank you Donnie. You will be forever missed and always remembered.” — Jean Baumgardner
A great community activist, Donnie Chin was a giant who protected and helped those who lived, worked, and cherished the ID. He never asked or took for himself. He was the ultimate giver who was especially watchful over our elders and our youth. He was a tough guy with a tough exterior, which masked a soft heart. He had a funky sense of humor who knew how to put me in my place. Many of us got to know him because of his passion for the community, and his constant presence and activism to assure neighborhood safety. Many of us consider him to be a close friend. He can never be replaced but our community will fight for justice for Donnie. His memory inspires us to stay strong, so that all of us — staffs, volunteers, and patients — can be safely served, and be able to move about the ID with confidence.” — Teresita Batayola
“Accepting that Donnie is gone has been very difficult for those of us who loved him as a friend and understood what he meant to the ID. There is no way to express the loss. I try to remember that we honor his spirit when we embrace his daily values: commitment to social justice, dedication to community service, humility, honesty, compassion, and care for the seniors and young people. Even though he’s gone, Donnie still reminds us that we can each do better.” — Ron Chew