Uncle who helped raise Baltimore Det. Sean Suiter says family members 'deserve to find out the truth,' welcome FBI involvement

The family of slain Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter “deserve to find out the truth,” and they welcome an independent investigation by the FBI, according to his 82-year-old uncle, Sherman “Pops” Basil.

Basil, who helped raise Suiter in Washington, said he and other family members believe his nephew was killed by an attacker, though they don’t know why or how, and believe more eyes on the case would help.

“Somebody independent should investigate what happened,” he said. “They just have to try to find the truth.”

Basil’s comments, in an interview with The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday, come as questions linger about the now month-old Baltimore police investigation into Suiter’s death and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis’ request Dec. 1 that the FBI take over.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday that Nicole Suiter, the detective’s widow, told her Tuesday that she also wants the FBI to take over the case. Nicole Suiter has declined to comment publicly.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that the FBI will “probably be able to act” on the request, but no action had been announced as of Wednesday.

Police said the FBI had not responded to Davis’ request. City detectives are continuing to work the case.

Suiter was shot Nov. 15 in a vacant lot in Harlem Park in West Baltimore after what police initially described as a brief but violent struggle with an unknown suspect. They said Suiter was in the neighborhood with another detective, doing follow-up work on a 2016 triple homicide in the neighborhood.

Police more recently have acknowledged investigators also are considering other theories in the case, including that Suiter may have taken his own life.

Suiter was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury the day after he was shot, in a police corruption case in which a fellow officer is accused of planting drugs and duping Suiter into finding them. That has spurred additional conspiracy theories.

Basil said the family reject outright any suggestion Suiter may have taken his own life, because there is no way he would leave his five children and it wasn’t in his character.

“He was focused on trying to help them and raise them to be strong and good citizens,” Basil said. “He wasn’t brought up to give up. He was brought up to be a fighter.”

At Suiter’s funeral, his large family filled a section of pews near the front, holding back tears. The program said Suiter’s uncle and aunt, Basil and the late Phyllis Suiter, “were instrumental in his upbringing and loved him as their own.”

“They instilled in him the values of family and community.”

Basil’s son, Kevin Basil, was one of his cousin’s pallbearers.

Echoing his father, Kevin Basil said his cousin “had no reason to commit suicide,” and that the family “welcome the FBI.”

He also said his cousin had not mentioned his impending grand jury testimony to any family members, but that relatives did not find that surprising, given that police officers are always engaged in various court proceedings.

Suiter was always “fun” growing up, the elder Basil said, recalling Suiter and his daughter Colleen watching “the movie ‘Singin’ in the Rain’” over and over again when they were young in the family’s Washington home.

Basil, a cab driver in Washington, said he’d always tried to provide an example for his nephew to “do the right thing, try to treat people right, go to work for what you want.”

Through the years, and during his time in the Army, Suiter lived by those lessons, and was an anchor for the family, which was always close-knit, Basil said. That continued after he joined the police force, too.

With 18 years on the job, Suiter planned to put seven more years in and then retire with 25 years served, Basil said. He had recently made plans with his uncle to visit with the extended family over Christmas. The future was something he talked about with excitement, not something he feared, his uncle said.

After Suiter was shot, but before he was pronounced dead the following day, Basil went and sat by his nephew at the hospital. Suiter was on his back with his head wrapped in a large bandage, the sheets up to his neck, a tube coming from his nose and another attached to a machine that allowed for his breathing. Police officials milled around.

The family all sat around crying, wanting answers that weren’t available, Basil said.

“All his kids loved him. It’s a big hit for them, and his wife,” Basil said. “They deserve to find out the truth.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

krector@baltsun.com

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