Leaked video shows Baltimore Police homicide detectives interviewed an informant who described the death of Det. Sean Suiter as a homicide and identified a lead on a possible suspect.
The video, obtained by WMAR, shows a man telling detectives an account of someone getting into a struggle with and shooting a man who they later learned was Suiter. He told police the information was secondhand.
“This was before we even know that there was a police, that s--- in the news or whatever,” the man on the video tells detectives. “He said ... the detective dude started to walk over and walk over top and he looked up and he saw a n---- with a gun or whatever, so he went for it or whatever, and that was the outcome.”
WMAR reported that the man said he knew the name of the man who told him the story, but that he never got the name of the person who did the shooting.
The Police Department said in a statement that the man’s information wasn’t credible, but declined to explain in detail.
“Our detectives have looked into the information given to us in the interview, and we do not believe it to be a credible lead,” said Matt Jablow, the chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department.
The man’s tip has not previously been described by officials or in the Independent Review Board report, which concluded that Suiter likely took his own life.
Suiter’s death was officially ruled a homicide in the days after his death. He was shot the day before he was to testify before a federal grand jury investigating corruption within Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force. Since then, some investigators began to believe that the evidence suggested Suiter committed suicide and staged it to look like he had been killed, and the independent panel’s review of the evidence settled on that as the most likely scenario.
Suiter’s family and his attorney, along with some of the slain detective’s colleagues in the Police Department, reject that finding, and say the panel overlooked important evidence.
Attorney Jeremy Eldridge said the video raised important questions about the quality of the investigation and the amount of information the review panel was provided.
“A tip with this specificity is incredibly concerning,” he said. “This information was provided by a key witness in a federal prosecution. If this information wasn’t vetted by the BPD, it means they didn’t investigate the murder of one of its own, and it owes Sean’s family some very candid answers about why.”
The Police Department received 54 tips that they followed up on, according to the Independent Review Board. A memo provided by the Police Department to the panel “noted that all leads had been exhausted, and there were no suspects, nor had any charges been brought.”
WMAR identified the man in the leaked video as a confidential informant who was used as a government witness in the recent major federal trial of a gang called “Trained To Go,” which federal prosecutors said was behind a slew of killings.
Gary Childs, a retired homicide detective who did key work on the Independent Review Board investigation, said he had never seen the video leaked Thursday night. He said police provided the panel with summary reports that included the information provided by tipsters, and reasons why detectives had discounted or not acted on such information.
“They didn’t get one lead that they didn’t follow out,” Childs said. “Nobody ever brought up any incident where they had a guy they believed had credible information on a suspect.”
Childs said he recalled one tip in which a man had given a detailed description of Suiter’s killing that matched the evidence. He said the report about that tip concluded by saying the tipster had told police he could show them where the murder weapon had been stashed.
But Childs said the man was discounted at that point, because investigators had concluded Suiter was shot with his own gun, which was found under his body at the scene.
Childs said he was not sure if that tip was the same one depicted on the leaked video.
The leaked video adds to the swirl of questions around the controversial case.
The department in the first days after Suiter’s death was receiving a large volume of tips, some of which clashed with evidence in hand and were discounted quickly and others that seemed to be credible at first and were discounted only after further investigation.
One tip that police pursued in the hours following Suiter’s shooting was that a woman was harboring a suspect who had been injured during the shooting, The Sun has previously reported. That tip did not pan out, sources said.
Police also said early on that Suiter and his partner that day, Detective David Bomenka, had seen a man who was acting suspiciously prior to Suiter’s shooting — information that formed the basis for a vague suspect description released by the department — of a black man wearing a black jacket with a white stripe. Nothing ever came of that information, either.
Other videos in the case showed Suiter pacing back and forth near the entrance to an empty lot, before darting into the lot suddenly with his gun in his right hand and his radio in his left hand, according to sources. While some in the department felt that showed he was pursuing a suspect, others believed he was building himself up to carry out a suicide.
The Sun recently reported that the medical examiner’s office is not issuing a decision on whether to change the official cause of death in the wake of the IRB report, because city prosecutors have raised questions about DNA evidence on Suiter’s gun.
The state’s attorney’s office declined to comment Thursday night about the leaked video.