No word from FBI on Baltimore police request that it take over Det. Sean Suiter investigation

The FBI had yet to respond Monday to a request from Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis that the agency take over the Police Department’s investigation into the killing last month of Detective Sean Suiter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment Monday on the request letter that Davis sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday, and said any response “will be made directly to” Davis.

T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said Monday that no response had been received.

Until one is received, or if the FBI denies the request, the city’s detectives “will continue to work their asses off to solve the case,” Smith said.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore and Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office both declined to comment on Davis’ request. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein also declined to comment.

In addition to Davis and Mayor Catherine Pugh, other leaders in Baltimore also have called for the FBI to take over the investigation, including City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman Brandon Scott, who chairs the public safety committee. The Baltimore delegation to Congress said its members support the request.

Lt. Gene Ryan — president of the local police union — said Monday he agreed as well, because many of the homicide detectives currently investigating Suiter’s killing were close to the detective and are mourning.

“I just think they’re too close to the investigation. It’s too personal. They might miss something unintentionally,” Ryan said. “It’s like me investigating my own brother being killed. ... When you’re hitting this close to home, it has a different impact.”

“We do look at it that way,” Ryan said. “This guy was our brother.”

Suiter, a Baltimore homicide detective, was investigating a 2016 triple homicide in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Harlem Park on Nov. 15 when he was shot in the head with his own firearm under unclear circumstances. He died the next day.

Police Department officials have said since the shooting occurred that there was a violent struggle. The department initiated an extensive manhunt for the suspect that included a neighborhood shutdown using police tactics local residents have criticized.

More recently, police revealed that they also have been investigating a theory that Suiter’s death was the result of a suicide. The department’s investigators are divided over the two theories.

The investigation also has been shaken by the revelation that Suiter was scheduled to testify, the day after he was shot, in a federal police corruption case involving the Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force.

Eight city police officers have been indicted in that case. Last week, federal prosecutors filed another indictment of one of the officers, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, related to a 2010 incident in which they alleged Jenkins duped Suiter into discovering drugs in a suspect’s vehicle that Jenkins had in fact planted there.

In asking the FBI to take over the investigation, Davis said that he feared his detectives were in the dark about some information relevant to the corruption case that would be known to the FBI.

“Our homicide detectives, some of the best in the business, some of the best I’ve ever seen, can’t do their jobs effectively if there is a perception or a reality that we don’t possess all the information that we need to conduct the investigation,” Davis said.

Davis also said the community “needs to know that I am willing, and this Police Department is willing, to invite any extra sets of eyes or resources … to look at this incident to try to figure it out.”

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based policing think tank, said he couldn’t think of another case in which the FBI stepped in to investigate a similar homicide, but Davis’ request makes sense and “really goes to where policing is today in terms of legitimacy and transparency.”

“This is what the department feels it has to do to demonstrate that they want the investigation done independently and thoroughly to take off the table any questions of what the motives of the department might be,” Wexler said.

On it’s website, the FBI says that state and local law enforcement agencies “are not subordinate to the FBI, and the FBI does not supervise or take over their investigations” but works alongside them to solve crimes. City officials have said the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies have been involved in the Suiter investigation from the start.

However, the FBI also notes on its website that it does have the authority under federal law to investigate killings of police officers.

“The FBI has special investigative jurisdiction to investigate violations of state law in limited circumstances, specifically felony killings of state law enforcement officers ...” the website says. “A request by an appropriate state official is required before the FBI has authority to investigate these matters.”

The federal agency has been weathering a storm of criticism in the past week, as President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to criticize the FBI and question the special prosecutor's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible ties to Trump’s campaign.

Trump tweeted Sunday that the FBI’s “reputation is in Tatters” and the “worst in history.”

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

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