Baltimore, MD – Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who commanded the city’s police force when Detective Sean Suiter was shot and killed in 2017, has blasted an independent review board’s 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.
Paul C. Siegrist, an attorney for Det. Suiter’s wife Nicole, confirmed the anticipated findings of the independent review board’s report, which is slated to be released on Wednesday.
“She is shocked by their conclusion,” Siegrist said.
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.
On Monday, 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 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.”
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh fired Davis in January, due to what she claimed was his inability to quell rising violence within the city, The Baltimore Sun reported.
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.
During the Gun Trace Task Force trial, accusations were made that Det. Suiter had stolen money along with one of the officers involved in the investigation, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Davis vehemently denied those accusations on Monday.
“[Det. Suiter] was not a dirty cop, and that’s from [FBI Special Agent in Charge] Gordon Johnson to me,” Davis said. “I just think it’s convenient to pull Suiter into this since he can’t speak for himself.”
Davis indicated he felt it would be a mistake to “summarily package this up, put a bow on it as a suicide, and simply put it on the shelf.”
“I think if we're not careful, and we make a premature determination that this is a suicide when the facts don’t stand up to that, then we could be letting someone get away with murder,” he told The Baltimore Sun.