A timeline of the investigation into the death of Baltimore homicide Detective Sean Suiter
The Baltimore Sun|
Aug 27, 2018 at 11:30 AM
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. But in a review of his death, an independent panel concluded in August that Suiter likely took his own life.
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.
An hour later, the Police Department posted on Twitter and Facebook, asking the public to "say an extra prayer for the officer and the officer's family."
One of our officers was shot this evening. Please say an extra prayer for the officer and the officer’s family. We’ll update soon. Thank you.
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 individual responsible for this heinous crime will be found, charged, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. @BaltimorePolice has our full support as they track down this violent criminal and bring him to justice.
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."
We will find the person responsible for this ridiculous, absurd, unnecessary loss of life
Kevin Davis, police commissioner
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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."
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.
We’re not ruling anything out
Kevin Davis, police commissioner
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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.
The neighborhood remained locked down over the weekend, the crime scene still active. Police said they hoped an autopsy would provide more clues.
The search for Detective Sean Suiter's killer entered its fourth day Saturday as the officer's body was escorted by police from Maryland Shock Trauma to the medical examiner's office. (Karl Merton Ferron, Justin Fenton / Baltimore Sun video)
"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.
Please know this crime scene preservation has been necessary
Kevin Davis, police commissioner
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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."
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.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis gives an update on the investigation into Detective Sean Suiter's killing. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)
A convicted Baltimore Police detective testified Monday in the Gun Trace Task Force trial that he used to steal money with Det. Sean Suiter, the city homicide detective whose fatal shooting in November — one day before he was to testify before a federal grand jury in the case — remains unsolved.
"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.
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.
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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."
The independent panel appointed to review the death of Baltimore homicide Det. Sean Suiter has concluded that the officer likely took his own life, according to a source with knowledge of the findings.