Baltimore, MD – Baltimore police announced on Wednesday that they have closed the investigation into the 2017 death of Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter after a Maryland State Police investigation concluded that Det. Suiter’s death was a suicide.
"I have received the Maryland State Police report regarding their review of the investigation into Det. Sean Suiter's death,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement, according to WBAL.
“There is nothing in the report to suggest that Det. Suiter's death was anything other than a suicide, nor was there any suggestion that the case should be re-investigated or continued. Given that, and given similar findings by last year's independent review board, BPD's investigation into Det. Suiter's death is now closed,” he said.
“Regardless of the circumstances, Det. Suiter's death was a tragedy and we will continue to keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers,” Commissioner Harrison continued. “Finally, I want to thank Supt. William Pallozzi and every member of the state police who worked on the report for their commitment to bringing closure in this case."
Det. Suiter was conducting a follow-up investigation in connection with a 2016 triple homicide when he was shot in the head with his own weapon on Nov. 15, 2017.
His death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office and Baltimore police investigated it as such.
But in August of 2018, an independent review board concluded that Det. Suiter’s fatal gunshot wound had been self-inflicted.
Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who commanded the city’s police force when Det. Suiter was shot and killed in 2017, blasted the conclusion that the detective committed suicide.
“Culturally, the BPD can’t live with the fact that there’s an unsolved murder of a cop on the books,” Davis told The Baltimore Sun.
Davis told The Baltimore Sun that he believes Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officials became frustrated when they failed to identify a suspect in Det. Suiter’s death, and that they ramped up their efforts to have the case reclassified as a suicide.
During the investigation, Det. Suiter’s partner said that he and Det. Suiter had noticed a suspicious person about 20 minutes before Det. Suiter was killed.
Det. Suiter saw the suspicious individual again and approached him to investigate. Police said evidence indicated that a fast and violent struggle ensued.
The former Navy officer, a beloved husband and father of five, was shot once in the head, and died the next day at University of Maryland Shock Trauma.
Former Commissioner Davis said nobody lured the detective into the area where he was killed. He also said that the autopsy proved Det. Suiter was killed with his own service weapon.
Private surveillance video recovered by police showed Det. Suiter’s partner seeking cover across the street when the gunfire erupted.
“The evidence refutes the notion that Det. Suiters’ partner was anything but just that, his partner … He immediately called 911. We know this because it is captured on private surveillance video that we have recovered,” Commissioner Davis said at the time.
“We have evidence of a struggle between Det. Suiter and his killer. A radio transmission, and the sound of apparent gunfire, and evidence of a struggle visible on Det. Suiter’s clothing,” he continued. “There was a very brief radio transmission made by Det. Suiter – it was about two or three seconds – it’s unintelligible right now. We don’t know exactly what he said but he was clearly in distress.”
Davis said he was not aware of any new evidence related to Det. Suiter’s death since his dismissal.
“It’s OK at the end of the day to say we still don’t know,” Davis told The Baltimore Sun. “We talk about probabilities and possibilities. When I left in January 2018, the probability was homicide. Suicide was always a possibility, but the strength of the evidence didn’t support it.”
Despite Davis’ role in the department at the time of Det. Suiter’s death, only two members of the independent review board interviewed him – and that interview was conducted at Davis’ request, he said.
“I told [the panel members], ‘If you tell this city and this community that it was suicide, and that’s based on no new evidence — the evidence that existed when I was there — that’s not going to be received very well,'" he recounted.
Davis said he did not trust two retired Baltimore homicide detectives who sat on the board, and described them as being “part of the culture” he was describing.
Det. Suiter died on Nov. 16, 2017, the same day he had been scheduled to testify in front of a federal grand jury in their case against Baltimore Police Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, a former member of the Gun Trace Task Force.
In that case, eight Baltimore Police officers have since been convicted of crimes that included racketeering conspiracy, robbing citizens, falsifying reports, selling seized drugs and guns, participating in home invasions, and earning fraudulent overtime.
At the time, Commissioner Davis said he’d only learned of the murdered detective’s planned grand jury testimony after he was shot, and he has repeatedly said that investigating officers have found no connection between Det. Suiter’s murder and his planned testimony.
Prosecutors have said Det. Suiter’s testimony was not pivotal to the corruption case.
But in May, Det. Suiter's family challenged the police department’s investigation into his death and said they believe his murder may have been an “inside job.”
“Something’s being covered up,” Det. Suiter’s widow, Nicole Suiter, told The Baltimore Sun.
The detective’s family said the timing of the shooting, one day before he was due to testify before a federal grand jury, was suspicious and not insignificant.
“It’s just too much of a coincidence — the day before he was due to testify. It looks like an inside job,” Det. Suiter’s oldest child, 27-year-old Damira, told The Baltimore Sun.
His widow agreed with the assessment.
“I just feel like it was an inside job. That’s what I feel like,” Nicole said.