Baltimore Police Homicide Detective Sean Suiter was investigating a recent homicide on Nov. 15 in the Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore when he was shot by an unknown gunman, according to police. Suiter died at Shock Trauma, leaving behind a wife and five children, the following day.
No suspect has been identified, despite a record-high $215,000 reward for information.
The following is a timeline of the shooting and the subsequent investigation, according to statements by public officials and Baltimore Sun reporting.
Wednesday, Nov. 15
The shooting happened about 4:30 p.m. in the 900 block of Bennett Place, just northwest of U.S. 40 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The Police Department’s first official confirmation came at 5:42 p.m. in an email to the media.
“The Baltimore Police Department’s Media Relations Section is currently gathering details regarding the police involved shooting that occurred in the 900 block of Bennett Place at approximately 4:30 p.m.,” police spokeswoman Detective Nicole Monroe wrote.
At a 9 p.m. news conference outside the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis outlined the details of the incident, without releasing the detective’s name. The detective had been investigating a recent homicide and approached a “man engaged in suspicious behaviors,” in an attempt to speak with him, when he was shot, Davis said.
Standing alongside Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, Davis identified the injured detective only as an 18-year veteran of the Police Department working as a homicide detective.
“Our 18-year veteran homicide detective was shot in the head,” Davis said.
He said the detective was “in very, very grave condition” and that he “continues to fight for his life.”
Dr. Thomas Scalea, the physician-in-chief at Shock Trauma, said the detective was on full life support in the intensive care unit.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep him stabilized,” Scalea said.
Davis called the investigation into the shooting “fluid, ongoing [and] complex.”
The commissioner noted that the initial reward for information in the shooting was $62,000 — an amount that would more than triple in subsequent days.
Gov. Larry Hogan said on Twitter that the “individual responsible for this heinous crime will be found, charged, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Baltimore Police has our full support as they track down this violent criminal and bring him to justice,” he said.
Police maintained an active crime scene on the block overnight, with officers stationed in a wide perimeter and the police Foxtrot helicopter circling low.
Thursday, Nov. 16
The morning after the shooting, police and academy cadets fanned out across Harlem Park, knocking on doors and following up on leads with searches of homes in the area.
Suiter, 43, died surrounded by his family and fellow officers at Shock Trauma shortly after noon, officials said. Davis emailed the Police Department, then released his name to the public in a news conference announcing his death.
“We will find the person responsible for this ridiculous, absurd, unnecessary loss of life,” Davis said. He implored citizens to help police “bring this heartless, ruthless, soulless killer to justice.”
Colleagues in the Police Department remembered Suiter as a dependable investigator who was often smiling.
A police source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said Suiter was trying to find a witness in a 2016 triple shooting case when he and another detective saw the suspicious activity in a vacant lot in the middle of the 900 block of Bennett Place.
The two detectives split up, apparently to try to cover different exits of the block, when Suiter was shot, the source said.
Davis said police had found evidence that suggested the suspect was injured, but declined to elaborate. He said police were searching emergency rooms and doctors’ offices for “anyone with an unexplained injury.”
Some neighbors reported having their houses searched and being required to show identification and be escorted by a police officer to enter the block.
Federal agencies and Metro Crime Stoppers increased the reward to $69,000 for information leading to an arrest. Hogan pledged another $100,000 in state money to help.
Friday, Nov. 17
The reward escalated again, to $215,000, on Friday as police said they expected to keep the active crime scene in place over the weekend. Police released additional details about the incident and the investigation in a 3 p.m. news conference at their downtown headquarters.
More than one bullet had been fired from Suiter’s departmental service weapon, Davis said, and added that investigators weren’t ruling out the possibility that the detective had been killed with his own gun.
“We’re not ruling anything out,” Davis said.
In the frantic aftermath of the shooting, Suiter was put into a police car to be driven to Maryland Shock Trauma Center as quickly as possible, police said. The vehicle collided with another police car while en route, and Suiter was then loaded into an ambulance and admitted to the hospital.
All ballistic evidence recovered was determined to have come from Suiter’s weapon, Davis said. But police said it was still possible the gunman had a weapon of his own that he took with him when he fled, and that Suiter had fired his weapon himself.
“We only recovered one gun. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a second gun,” Davis said.
Anne Arundel County offered $20,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction in the shooting. With other contributions, the reward amount for information in Suiter’s shooting eventually rose to $215,000.
Saturday, Nov. 18
A police motorcade took Suiter’s body to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner from Shock Trauma on Saturday afternoon, as officers stood at attention.
The neighborhood remained locked down over the weekend, the crime scene still active. Police said they hoped an autopsy would provide more clues.
Sunday, Nov. 19
With Harlem Park residents’ patience running out after five days of living inside a crime scene, the Police Department announced it would clear the block on Monday.
“Please know this crime scene preservation has been necessary,” Davis said on Twitter on Sunday. “We will finish our exhaustive examination of the scene in the morning.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland called Suiter’s killing “tragic,” but requested an explanation for the days-long cordoning off of the neighborhood. The organization said it had received reports that people have faced pat-down searches, and nonresidents have been barred from entering the area.
"The residents of Baltimore, and, in particular, the residents of the affected community, deserve a clear explanation from the City as to why this unprecedented action has been taken, what rules are being enforced, and why it is lawful,” said David Rocah, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland.
Davis insisted that maintaining the crime scene until the autopsy was finished would allow police to go back and revisit it without worrying whether it had been tampered with.
“Once we release a crime scene, we can’t get it back,” Davis said.
City Solicitor Andre Davis, a former senior judge on the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, said he understands the inconvenience to neighbors, but sees no legal problems with the Police Department’s shutdown of the neighborhood, given the circumstances.
Monday, Nov. 20
The dozens of officers who were posted in Harlem Park over the weekend were gone as of about 7 a.m. Monday, but investigators returned with the autopsy results in hand, having discovered additional evidence, Davis said.
“I’m very encouraged by the recovery of this evidence,” Davis said, declining to elaborate on what was discovered. “I think it’s going to help us identify the killer.”
Baltimore Ceasefire organizer Erricka Bridgeford brought a group of well-wishers to the crime scene to “pour light and love” into the neighborhood and “turn a murder location into sacred ground.”
For a sixth night in a row, blue and red lights reflected off nearby Harlem Park rowhomes. It was the first killing of a police officer in recent memory that has taken so long to solve.
Tuesday, Nov. 21
Suiter’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 29 at Mt. Pleasant Church, the Police Department announced Tuesday.
There will be viewings for Suiter on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, at Vaughn Greene Funeral Home in Randallstown. The viewing will run from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
Following the Wednesday funeral, a procession will travel to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, where Suiter’s body will be interred.
Wednesday, Nov. 22
Suiter was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury in the case against a squad of indicted officers on the day after he was shot, Davis said Wednesday evening during a news conference.
Davis said Wednesday that federal authorities have told him “in no uncertain terms” that Suiter was not a target of their investigation into the Gun Trace Task Force. He said authorities have no reason to believe Suiter’s killing was connected to his pending testimony.
Davis also said that Suiter is believed to have been killed with his own service weapon, which was fired at close range, and that there was evidence of a struggle before the shooting.
Audio recordings of police dispatch calls during the incident were published.
With no sign of a suspect, officers responding to the shooting feared the shots could have been fired from inside nearby buildings, the audio shows.
Friday, Nov. 24
Feds have reopened a 2010 case involving Suiter and an indicted gun task force officer.
Police have declined to identify the other detective who was at the scene with Suiter at the time of the shooting.
Here’s a look at what we know after a busy week of news in the case.
Monday, Nov. 27
Wednesday, Nov. 29
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings pressed the director of the FBI to make the investigation “a top priority” and called on the federal agency to “do everything” in its power to help.
Thursday, Nov. 30
Baltimore officials call for the FBI to take over the investigation into Suiter’s death.
Friday, Dec. 1
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis asks the FBI to take over the investigation.
Wednesday, Dec. 27
The FBI rejects the request to take over the investigation of Suiter’s death, saying it has no evidence to suggest his death was “directly connected” to the corruption probe or any other federal case.
Wednesday, Jan. 10
Despite no apparent progress in the investigation into Suiter’s killing police say they do not consider it a “cold case.”
“People are still calling us and telling us things we’re checking out. Nothing has led to an identification or arrest of the person responsible, but we’re encouraged that people are still calling in,” police spokesman T.J. Smith said.
Monday, Feb. 5
Detective Momodu Gondo testifies in the Gun Trace Task Force trial that he used to steal money with Suiter. Suiter worked earlier in his career with at least three officers indicted in the Gun Trace Task Force case, court records show: Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and Detectives Maurice Ward and Momodu Gondo.
Thursday, March 22
New details have been revealed in the investigation into Suiter’s killing. The Sun spoke with five law enforcement sources knowledgeable about the surveillance footage and other evidence. These sources had different interpretations. The new details help to explain public comments made by police that previously lacked context.
- Sources say Suiter’s partner that day, Detective David Bomenka, told investigators he did not see the shooting, but saw Suiter just after and there was no suspect in sight. That prompted concerns that the shots could have been fired from the windows of a home, and led police to lock down the immediate area for days.
- Sources say police received a tip that a woman was harboring a suspect who had been injured during the shooting. The tip did not pan out.
- Police said publicly at the time that they believed Suiter had been attacked, and that the suspect had been wounded. Sources say that was based on blood found in the vacant lot where the shooting occurred. One blood spot turned out to be from an animal, but another was linked to a drug user. He was located, interviewed and discounted as a suspect, sources say.
- Days after the shooting, during a deeper search of the vacant lot, then-Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said he was “very encouraged” by the discovery of new evidence. Sources say it was a bullet found embedded in the dirt, which investigators at first believed could be from a suspect’s gun. After testing, police concluded it was the fatal bullet but came from Suiter’s gun.
Moments before his death, surveillance cameras showed, Suiter had paced back and forth on the street. Then he darted out of view and into the lot where three shots rang out. Some say the evidence — including the location of the gun, the pacing as though preparing himself — suggests Suiter could have committed suicide staged to look like a murder.
But some point to other evidence as bolstering their view that Suiter likely scuffled with an assailant before his death. Sources say the bullet that ultimately killed Suiter entered behind his right ear and traveled forward, exiting from his left temple. The path of the bullet is not typical of a suicide, some note.
“The realistic version of this is that there are two things that are possible: suicide and murder,” one source said. “I could convince anybody why it’s a murder, and I could convince anybody why it’s a suicide.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Justin Fenton, Colin Campbell, Talia Richman, Jessica Anderson and Kevin Rector contributed to this timeline.