The independent board reviewing the death of Baltimore homicide detective Sean Suiter voted in closed session Tuesday on its conclusion regarding how the officer died, and a final report could be made public within a month, the panel’s chair said.
Though its findings were originally expected to be released by the end of July, board chair James “Chips” Stewart said the group has been conducting additional interviews and are waiting on the results from a new forensic test. He declined to describe the nature of the test.
On a conference call, board members voted on their conclusions about the evidence and worked through a draft of their report.
“The board is in the process of completing its review and is producing a comprehensive report that will bring clarity and additional evidence and conclusions” to the case, Stewart told reporters before the phone meeting took place.
The review board was established by former Commissioner Darryl De Sousa to consider disparate theories about how Suiter died, as well as the Police Department’s handling of the crime scene, which included shutting down part of the Harlem Park neighborhood for days.
Suiter was shot in the head on Nov. 15, 2017, while conducting a follow-up investigation on a homicide case in West Baltimore. Police have said they believe he was shot with his own gun at close range, and his death was ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner’s office. Despite a $215,000 reward, the case remains unsolved and investigators were said to have no significant leads.
Questions have been raised about the circumstances of the case. Suiter’s death occurred just one day before he was set to testify before a grand jury investigating the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal, and some within the Police Department believe the evidence points to a suicide.
“We will bring clarity to that issue,” Stewart said Tuesday.
The board’s findings are advisory in nature but could prompt officials to reconsider the findings. The state medical examiner’s office told WBAL-TV that it would review the findings and “if information in the report warrants a change in the manner of death,” the office “will change the manner of death to appropriately reflect the truth.”
The board, made up of two retired city homicide detectives and other outside experts, also looked at the department’s lockdown of the Harlem Park neighborhood for days after the fatal shooting. The latter has already come under criticism from the consent decree monitoring team.
The board has held four public meetings, and Stewart has been tight-lipped about the direction of their review. The group has conducted interviews with more than 30 people, and had has made three visits to Bennett Place, where the shooting occurred.
Stewart said Tuesday that the panel also tracked down “a witness to [the incident] that reconfirmed what they had initially told the Police Department.”
Stewart praised Detective Sgt. James Lloyd, the lead police investigator, who he said “helped us locate evidence and also helped us locate other people who could provide information relative to this investigation.”
Stewart said the panel had spoken with the U.S. attorney’s office and FBI, which investigated the Gun Trace Task Force case.
The board’s report will be submitted first to the Police Department, which will have 10 days to issue a response that will be incorporated into the final report.