Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Police weren’t investigating the murder of their own Detective Sean Suiter fast enough to suit the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.
While family, friends, and other police officers mourned the loss of the popular Baltimore homicide detective, gunned down in west Baltimore on Wednesday, the ACLU was questioning the legality of an integral and vital part of the police investigation into his murder.
Det. Suiter was fatally shot on Nov. 15 while investigating a 2016 homicide. He died the next day from the gunshot wound to his head.
Police officers who responded to the incident cordoned off an area around a grassy patch where Det. Suiter was shot, as is standard protocol for all crime scenes. The area remained cordoned off until Monday morning, as the crime scene was thoroughly processed.
The Baltimore police commissioner addressed the ACLU’s complaints, pointing out that without evidence, a murderer cannot be found, and prosecution is futile.
"Once we release a crime scene, we can't get it back. We can't get it back. So I do understand the temporary inconvenience for residents,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
The discovery of new evidence bolstered his decision to keep the area around the Harlem Park crime scene locked down through the weekend, he said.
Police checked the identification of anybody who wanted to cross into or through the restricted area.
“I would much rather endure some predictive criticism from the ACLU and others about that decision, than endure a conversation with Det. Suiter’s wife about why we didn’t do everything we possibly could do to recover evidence and identify the person who murdered her husband,” Commissioner Davis said.
"Our efforts to identify and arrest the perpetrator rely on the thoroughness of our investigation and our capacity to recover forensic, physical and other evidence,” T.J. Smith, Baltimore Police Media Relations Chief, said in a statement.
The ACLU had expressed concern about the legality of keeping the area cordoned off and police pat-downs of individuals entering or leaving the area.
"While the search for a killer is, of course, a high priority for the police, the limits on lawful police behavior do not disappear even when engaged in that pursuit,” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland.
Evidence was recovered from the scene Monday after autopsy results from Det. Suiter provided invaluable information to the investigation.
"Based on the results of the autopsy [Sunday], and no I am not going to specifically describe what those are, we have returned to the crime scene, and we have today [Monday], five days after Detective Suiter was murdered, recovered additional significant evidence from the crime scene,” Commissioner Davis said.
The autopsy provided detectives with guidance about where to look, and revealed to detectives the trajectory and proximity of discharge from the suspect's weapon. It also provided evidence that is helping police develop a motive for the murder of Det. Suiter.
"I think it's going to help us identify the killer. I really do," Commissioner Davis said after visiting the crime scene on Monday afternoon.
Details of the new evidence, or of the crime itself, have not been released.
The search for the suspect continued on Monday, with a reward of $215,000 offered for information leading to his arrest. The suspect is being urged to turn himself in.
“Turn yourself in. Turn yourself in. The Baltimore City police and our federal folk will not rest until we find you, so do it today," U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings warned in a press briefing.
While the ACLU complained about how long police were taking to investigate the decorated detective’s murder, the community Det. Suiter served was paying tribute to him, including a bikers’ remembrance ride in his honor.
A small group of citizens met at the edge of the crime scene to hold a vigil and “pour love and light” into the neighborhood on Monday Night, said Baltimore Ceasefire organizer Erricka Bridgeford, who set up the gathering.