Mourners gathered at a candlelight vigil in the Chinatown International District on Sunday to remember local hero Donnie Chin, who was fatally shot last week.

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Donnie Chin was remembered by hundreds jammed into Hing Hay Park for a memorial service illuminated by glowsticks and candles in the Chinatown International District on Sunday night.

From the archives

See a profile of Donnie Chin that ran in The Seattle Times in 1991  

More on Donnie Chin

International District Emergency Center director Donnie Chin was recently honored by OCA-Greater Seattle with a Golden Circle Award. (Photo courtesy of International Examiner)
International District Emergency Center director Donnie Chin was recently honored by OCA-Greater Seattle with a Golden Circle Award. (Photo courtesy of International Examiner)

Gifts in Chin’s memory

Donations may be made on Chin’s behalf to the International District Emergency Center, via the Seattle Foundation’s IDEC page.

“This is one of those times where people have to be with each other,” said Bob Santos, a lifelong friend of Chin’s who works for the International District Improvement Association.

Santos said everybody attending the vigil Sunday was devastated by Chin’s death, but said “if you walk around all these little crowds of people, they’re talking about the good times that they had with Donnie, they’re talking about the funny things he used to do or the funny things we did to him.”

Chin, fatally shot early Thursday, was called a “front-line hero” for his devoted pursuit of security in the neighborhood he patrolled as an unofficial security force for nearly 50 years. Chin was the director of the International District Emergency Center (IDEC).

Speakers at the memorial were somber but told playful stories of Chin’s vibrant personality.

“He was not that perfect man, because he was one of the biggest, softest tough guys with the foulest mouth,” said Teresita Batayola at the service, the chief executive officer of International Community Health Services.

Richard Mar from the IDEC said “Donnie would not have liked this gathering,” a line that stirred chuckles in the crowd. “He really would not have liked this gathering because he never took any credit … he never wanted any attention drawn to him.”

Mar said that there would be no burial or funeral service for Chin, but that an upcoming celebration is being planned.

Seattle police said they were called to Eighth Avenue South and South Lane Street just before 3 a.m. Thursday after a shooting was reported.

The wounded victim, later identified as 59-year-old Chin, was found in a car and taken to Harborview Medical Center. He died a short time later.

Police are sifting through surveillance video and witness tips to find Chin’s killer, authorities said Friday. No arrests have been made in connection with his death.

Chin had patrolled the Chinatown International District starting in junior high school. He found that private ambulance companies were slow to respond to 911 calls, according to a 1991 Seattle Times story.

Chin would respond to medical emergencies as well as reports of stolen items, electrical blackouts, lost children, people sleeping in the streets and even accidentally locked cars, the story said.

The story also recounted how Chin had the respect of medics, residents and business owners and was welcomed when he responded to 911 calls relayed over his police scanner.

Dr. Michael Copass, the former medical director of Seattle Medic One, said in the same 1991 Seattle Times story that Chin often beat paramedics to trauma victims and even “started CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) more than any one person in town.”

Copass said some of his elderly patients would take prescriptions to Chin, who would make sure they took their medication regularly. “He’s the county drugstore, sheriff, police and fire department all rolled into one,” Copass said in 1991.

Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, called Chin the savior of the Chinatown International District, in an interview with The Seattle Times on Thursday.

“He is our front-line hero,” she said shortly after learning of Chin’s death.

Ng said members of the community have long fought to secure funding for the IDEC. She doesn’t know what will happen to the center now that Chin is gone. At the service, Mar said the board hopes the center will stay open.

Uniformed Seattle police officers attended the event, and Mayor Ed Murray spoke.

“[Chin] made this a better community,” Murray said. “He made Seattle a better city.”

Ron Chew, a friend and community organizer, said Thursday: “I think we’re all right now just shocked and stunned and not knowing quite how to grieve this. [Chin] is the one we’re supposed to be calling for problems that come up and there’s nobody to call because he’s no longer with us. It’s tragic beyond measure. All of us are trying to understand it and accept it.”

Santos said Sunday Chin was “all business” when it came to dealing with the public, “but in the alley where his emergency center was, or in our own little clusters, he was sort of an entertaining kind of guy.”

“We all took Donnie for granted,” Santos said.