Det. Sean Suiter’s death found to be suicide, but family disputes the ruling by the Baltimore Police Commissioner.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison on Wednesday closed an investigation into the 2017 death of Detective Sean Suiter, saying that a Maryland State Police review confirmed earlier findings: that Suiter committed suicide in a West Baltimore lot while on duty.
Suiter’s family and attorney strongly condemned the investigation and said — as they have before — that he had been murdered.
It’s the latest chapter in a saga that began two years ago, when Suiter was found fatally shot. Police initially shut down part of the neighborhood for days amid the hunt for a killer. Later, officials began investigating the possibility that his death was a suicide — and revealed that Suiter had died a day before he was to testify in a police corruption probe.
Harrison said the state police review — which has not yet been released to the public — affirmed the earlier findings.
“There is nothing in the report to suggest that Det. Suiter’s death was anything other than a suicide, nor was there any suggestion that the case should be re-investigated or continued," Harrison said in a statement.
“Regardless of the circumstances, Det. Suiter’s death was a tragedy and we will continue to keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
“This is absolutely nothing new. This investigation that was done by the state police was done with a very tight set of parameters,” attorney Jeremy Eldridge said, adding that no additional people were interviewed or evidence was tested.
“This was rubber stamping the already flawed IRB report," Eldridge said, referencing an independent review board panel’s report last year. “Sean’s family and the citizens of Baltimore City deserve more."
Eldridge said the family would seek the release of all the investigative documents from the department and continue to call for a new, more thorough investigation.
Suiter was shot in the head in November 2017, after he darted into a vacant lot in West Baltimore while investigating a homicide.
The Harlem Park neighborhood was cordoned off for days by police, and a six-figure reward was quickly offered, but the investigation stalled. It was later revealed that Suiter was shot one day before he was to appear before a federal grand jury investigating the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal.
An independent panel of outside experts created by then-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa also found that Suiter most likely committed suicide. The panel said it believed he was concerned his own alleged misconduct could be exposed.
But Eldridge and Suiter’s family condemned such allegations as unfounded, arguing that the detective was actually a witness to the actions of deeply criminal cops.
“Sean had no reason to take his life. It’s factually incorrect," to say he was involved in any wrongdoing or was worried about being investigated, Eldridge said Wednesday. Eldridge called for federal investigators who prosecuted the GTTF to come forward and clear Suiter.
Suiter’s wife said she and her husband had just returned from vacation, and he was in a great mood.
“He wasn’t suicidal,” Nicole Suiter said. “I would like them to question me about his state of mind."
A state police spokesman said the review was conducted by state police homicide detectives.
“The Maryland State Police did not take over their investigation, nor did our investigators conduct their own independent investigation. They reviewed investigative actions taken by Baltimore Police Department detectives and provided an evaluation of those actions,” state police spokesman Greg Shipley said in a statement.
“State Police investigators who reviewed the case files believe the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Unit conducted an exhaustive investigation into the death of Detective Sean Suiter.”
Shipley said the agency would not release the report because it is “a supplement” to the city police investigation, and only city police would release it.
Baltimore Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the report would be made public but did not provide a timeline.
On Nov. 15, 2017 Suiter and Det. David Bomenka went to the Harlem Park neighborhood to conduct a follow-up interview on a triple homicide. At about 4 p.m., Suiter received a call from Eldridge.
Bomenka told investigators that he and Suiter saw a suspicious person in the neighborhood. Twenty minutes later, Suiter said he saw the suspicious person again. In that time, Suiter hung up on two calls that records show were from his attorney, Eldridge, whom he was supposed to meet at 5 p.m.
The detectives continued searching for the suspicious person. Suiter directed Bomenka to the street corner while Suiter walked toward a vacant lot out of Bomenka’s view. Bomenka said he saw Suiter make a gesture like a wave, then begin to unholster his weapon and run into the lot. Bomenka said he heard Suiter yell “Stop! Stop! Stop! Police!” followed by several gunshots, but no suspect.
Police quickly called Suiter’s death a homicide and cordoned off the neighborhood while hunting for a suspect.
According to the 2018 report, Suiter was supposed to testify the day after his death about a 2011 incident in which drugs were planted on a man who fled police and got into a fatal crash. The report said Suiter was granted limited immunity by federal prosecutors to discuss the case.
Detective Momodu Gondo would later testify at the Gun Trace Task Force trial that he had robbed citizens along with Suiter.
Then-Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said Suiter was not a target of the federal investigation, but the independent review board’s report found that the Acting U.S. Attorney told Davis that Suiter had been implicated in wrongdoing, and that “federal law enforcement did not have enough information to determine whether Suiter had been involved in criminal activity.”
“We weren’t worried about him being prosecuted,” he said. Instead, Suiter was worried about blowback from colleagues and how other officers looked at him. Eldridge said the department is a difficult place to work.