The killing of Baltimore homicide Det. Sean Suiter on Nov. 15 remains unsolved, and police have yet to identify a suspect. Here is a rundown of information released by police.
[This post was originally published Nov. 23 and has been updated continuously]
• Suiter and another homicide detective, whom police have declined to name but who The Sun has identified as Det. David Bomenka, visited the 900 block of Bennett Place to investigate a triple homicide that occurred in the block last December.
•The detectives were wearing suits and badges and canvassing for information. Detectives do not wear body cameras. They had no plans to meet with a particular person.
• Twenty minutes before the shooting, Suiter and his partner observed someone engaged in “suspicious activity” who police believe is the shooter.
“There were two observations of this suspicious person. One occurred 20 minutes prior, and one occurred just moments before the incident. The first time this suspicious person was observed, according to Detective Suiter’s partner, both Detective Suiter and his partner saw the person behaving suspiciously,” Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. (11/22)
• The officers left the area after the first observation without engaging the person, department spokesman T.J. Smith said in an interview on WEAA (11/24)
• The shooting occurred in a vacant lot next to 959 Bennett Place.
• Suiter “ran” into the lot
“Someone took Detective Suiter’s life when he ran into this alleyway acting as a police officer, trying to accomplish something. We don’t know what that was,” Smith said in an interview on WBAL Radio (11/28)
• Police say that in a brief transmission from Suiter’s radio, the apparent sound of gunfire can be heard.
“It was about two or three seconds. It’s unintelligible right now, but he was clearly in distress,” Davis said. (11/22)
• Police say there were signs of a “struggle,” though police have not described those signs.
“The signs of a physical struggle on Detective Suiter’s clothing are evident to us,” Davis said. (11/22)
• The struggle was brief. “It’s a matter of several seconds,” Davis said. (11/22)
• Suiter was shot once in the head, at close range, with his service weapon
“It was a close-contact gunshot wound to Detective Suiter’s head,” Davis said. (11/22)
• Three shots total were fired from Suiter’s service weapon.
• Suiter’s gun was recovered at the scene. No other weapons were fired or found.
• Police initially said they believe the shooter might have been wounded.
“The evidence available to us suggests the suspect may have been wounded. We’re searching emergency rooms and doctor’s offices,” Davis said. (11/16)
• Police said they have found no DNA, fingerprints or blood belonging to an assailant.
“The objective physical evidence that we do have is signs of a struggle on Det. Suiter’s clothing. Right now there is no DNA evidence or other forensic evidence — blood, etc. — that identifies the perpetrators. There is no, at the moment, no evidence that speaks to” a perpetrator, Davis said. (12/1)
• Suiter was still holding his radio in his left hand after the shooting, despite the struggle for his gun.
“We have body-worn camera footage [from responding officers]. Detective Suiter’s radio never left his left hand,” Davis said. (11/22)
• Davis said on Nov. 16 that the partner was “in the immediate vicinity” of the shooting. On Nov. 22, he said the partner is seen on private surveillance tape seeking cover across the street when the gunfire rang out.
“Upon the sound of gunfire, Detective Suiter’s partner sought cover across the street,” Davis said. (11/22)
• Police have declined to describe the partner’s observations and have not identified him, saying he is a witness to a murder. “Witness” is a term used for anyone with information about a case.
The partner did not have his radio with him, and called 911 from his cellphone
• When the partner called for help, dispatchers said he had no suspect description. Officers responding to the scene worried that the shots had come from a nearby building, and in the hours and days after the incident, police searched many nearby vacant buildings.
“Caller reporting that his partner got shot. No description of the suspect, no further,” a dispatcher said.
• On the night of the shooting, a vague possible description of a suspect was provided: an African-American man wearing a black jacket with a white stripe. Davis said this came from the partner.
• Suiter was transported to the hospital in a patrol vehicle, which got into an accident while en route. Suiter was then transferred into an ambulance and taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
• Dr. Thomas Scalea, physician in chief at Shock Trauma, told The Sun on Nov. 25 that any delay in getting Suiter to the hospital did not impact his condition.
“Detective Suiter died from a fatal brain injury from a GSW [gunshot wound] to the head, and time in the field was not an issue,” Scalea said.
• Suiter was pronounced dead the day after the shooting. An autopsy was not performed until four days after the shooting because of the decision to donate his organs.
• Police locked down the scene around the shooting through Sunday, Nov. 19. Around mid-day Monday, police returned to the scene. They said information from the autopsy led them to find new evidence in the lot. Davis later said on Nov. 22 that the evidence found was the bullet they believe killed Suiter, which had his DNA on it. Smith, the agency spokesman, said the bullet was a fragment in the Nov. 24 radio interview.
• Suiter was killed the day before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury in the Gun Trace Task Force case.
“Detective Suiter was going to offer federal grand jury testimony about an incident that occurred several years ago that included officers that are now federally indicted,” Davis said. (11/22)
• Suiter was not the target of the federal investigation, Davis said.
“There is no information that has been communicated to me that Detective Suiter was anything other than a stellar detective, great friend, loving husband and dedicated father,” Davis said.
• The testimony involved an arrest in 2010 that Suiter made with then-Det. Wayne Jenkins where drugs were found in a man’s vehicle after a deadly high-speed chase. Federal prosecutors said in an indictment that came down on Nov. 30 that Jenkins planted the drugs and set up Suiter to find them, calling him “clueless” that they had been planted.
• The attorney for the men charged with the planted drugs said Dec. 18 that Suiter had rammed their vehicle from behind, then emerged wearing a face mask and all black, with a gun pointed. The men said they fled because they believed they were being robbed
• Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning said federal prosecutors had not had a chance to discuss Suiter’s account with him prior to his scheduled testimony. He would also not say whether Suiter had been offered immunity. (WBAL, Nov. 30)
“Our prosecutors hadn’t talked to him. We subpoenaed him. We were asking questions. I think what would’ve happened, he would’ve come in, we would’ve talked to him before he went into the grand jury, and then we would’ve put him in the grand jury under oath and taken his testimony,” Schenning told WBAL. “I don’t want to get into” whether he would’ve received immunity, Schenning said.
• Suiter had not told his family or his squad in homicide about the impending testimony, according to a cousin, Kevin Basil, and his detective partner, Jonathan Jones.• Davis said at a Nov. 22 press conference that he “now knew” that Suiter was going to give testimony; he did not give a specific date when he learned. In a follow-up question to spokesman Smith asking when Davis met with the U.S. Attorney, Smith replied the night of Tuesday Nov. 22. Schenning said Dec. 1 that he told Davis about the testimony on the day of Suiter’s death. Davis subsequently acknowledged he had been told on Nov. 16, and said his previous comments had been “misinterpreted.”
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said she asked Davis on Nov. 22 to tell the public about the testimony. Police say it was a “mutual decision.”