Baltimore’s police commissioner says the evidence suggests Sean Suiter’s death was not related to his testimony.
The Baltimore police detective who was fatally shot in the line of duty last week was scheduled to testify in a federal case against officers indicted earlier this year, the Baltimore Police Department confirmed Wednesday.
The day after he died, Homicide Det. Sean Suiter, 43, was set to testify before a federal grand jury about an incident that occurred years ago involving BPD officers, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said during a news conference. The officers were indicted in March and August on federal racketeering charges.
Davis also revealed that investigators believe Suiter had been killed with his own weapon, adding that there were signs of a struggle between Suiter, an 18-year veteran of the BPD, and his killer, who remains at large.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Davis attempted to dispel any rumors that Suiter’s pending testimony was related to his death.
Suiter was not a target of the ongoing federal investigation of the eight officers, members of Baltimore’s elite Gun Trace Task Force, according to police.
“The BPD and the FBI do not possess any information that this incident ... is part of any conspiracy,” Davis said, explaining that the fatal confrontation “appears to be nothing more than a spontaneous observation of a man behaving suspiciously and a spontaneous decision to investigate his conduct.”
Suiter, a father of five, was shot in the head on Nov. 15 after noticing a man acting suspiciously while he and his partner were investigating a 2016 triple homicide. He died one day later.
During that day’s investigation efforts, both Suiter and his partner had noticed the suspicious man in a vacant lot and approached him, Davis said Wednesday, citing surveillance camera footage reviewed by investigators.
“Upon the sound of gunfire, Detective Suiter’s partner sought cover across the street,” Davis explained. “He immediately called 911. We know this, because it is captured on private surveillance video that we have recovered.”
According to police, the ongoing investigation revealed that Suiter was shot within close range and was still holding his radio in his left hand.
Davis also confirmed that Suiter’s death remains an open homicide investigation and confirmed that police don’t have a suspect in custody a week after the shooting.
Asked about the conspiracy theories surrounding Suiter’s killing, Davis said, “It certainly makes for great theater.”
“We have a police officer who’s shot and killed, and we don’t have a good description and we don’t have someone in custody and ― lo and behold ― we find out after the fact that he was scheduled to testify in front of a federal jury.”
Still, Davis added, “there’s no evidence whatsoever that Suiter’s death was related to his testimony.”
Many people remain suspicious of the timing of Suiter’s death, including Intercept columnist and prominent civil rights activist Shaun King.
The Baltimore Police Department has been under public scrutiny after the Justice Department released a damning report last year that revealed the department had routinely abused Baltimore residents’ civil rights, including unconstitutional stops, frisks and arrests, using excessive force and taking a lax approach to sexual assault cases.
In April, a federal judge approved a deal made during the Obama administration between the city and the Justice Department to reform the troubled police department. The Trump administration had requested a delay on the approval of that deal, but it was rejected.
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