On Thursday, August 13, Seattle Police Department detectives said they identified two men present during the shooting of International District Emergency Services director Donnie Chin on July 23.
SPD detectives said they are working to retrace the steps of individuals involved in the exchange of gunfire which killed Chin. Detectives also said they believe at least two people present during the shooting had spent time at two International District hookah establishments prior to the incident. Detectives are working to determine the extent of their involvement in the homicide.
One of the men is in police custody on an unrelated Department of Corrections violation.
“It’s too early to determine what role they played, if any, in the Donnie Chin murder, but they were definitely involved in criminal activity around the same time as the tragedy occurred,” SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole told King5 News. “Donnie Chin was an innocent victim who was likely caught in crossfire.”
SPD does not yet have probable cause to arrest the men and are working closely with prosecutors.
SPD detectives said they are also still looking for help in finding a witness who they say picked up some shell casings and brought them to officers. The man was described as a 6′ tall African-American with a thin build. At the time, he was wearing a white brimmed hat, glasses and a green argyle shirt. Anyone with information is asked to call SPD Homicide Investigators at (206) 684-5550.
SPD officials said they are also looking into previous incidents at the two hookah bars in the International District.
To see an SPD compilation of incidents at hookah lounges in the city, click here
There were 29 events in 2015 reported by SPD at King’s Hookah Lounge, including disturbances, thefts, nuisance, fraud, and the Donnie Chin homicide.
On August 3, Mayor Ed Murray announced a collaborative effort by Seattle and King County against illegally operating hookah bars. That same day, the city filed criminal charges against the owners of King’s Hookah Lounge for failure to pay business taxes. If convicted, the penalties range up to a $5,000 fine and/or 364 days in jail.
The NAACP and members of the East African community have rallied against the targeting of hookah lounges, which are often frequented by East African immigrants.
“We’re blaming all of this violence on hookah lounges, but I have yet to see one strand of evidence that connects that,” said Gerald Hankerson, president of the King County NAACP, at the August 10 City Council meeting Seattle Met reported. “This is racist at best.”
To see all public comment at the August 10 City Council meeting, click here. Public comment on hookah bars begin at 35 minutes.
At the end of public comment on hookah bars at the August 10 City Council meeting, API activist Frank Irigon made a statement, with his microphone turned off, before the council.
“Closing down the hookah bar is not about race but about being a responsible business owner, of taking responsibility for the bad behavior of his patrons outside his business and happening in front of Legacy House where our low-income, limited English speaking Asian seniors lived,” Irigon said. “Where they should be able to sleep in peace, live without fear, and enjoy the morning air. Instead our seniors are subjected to danger, are deprived of sleep and cannot enjoy the morning’s blessings. And I can assure you that closing down the hookah bar is not a clashing of cultures, but about the criminal behaviors of some of the business’s clientele. We all should be good citizens and be civil towards one another. And our hope is that the good relations we have with our black sisters and brothers does not disappear in a cloud of smoke. And in ending I believed that none of us would tolerate nor welcome a business that is not a good neighbor. Where money is more important than the mayhem their patrons caused.”
The International District Emergency Center is sponsoring an event to honor Donnie Chin’s life and legacy on August 15 at 2:00 p.m. at the Chong Wa Benevolent Association Playfield, 8th Avenue S and Weller Street, Seattle, WA 98104.