Family members of fallen Baltimore homicide Detective Sean Suiter, frustrated that they believe his case has been cast aside, are speaking out and alleging his death could be an “inside job.”
Suiter’s widow, Nicole, and five children told The Baltimore Sun Tuesday night that they have not had contact with authorities in several months. They continue to reject the findings of an outside panel that determined Suiter, fearing an ongoing federal investigation into department corruption, took his own life in November 2017 and staged it to look like a murder.
The case remains classified as a homicide by the medical examiner’s office, but the family said the panel’s conclusion became cover to abandon the investigation.
“Sean deserves better,” Nicole Suiter said from her home, where nearly every wall and surface is adorned with reminders of her husband. “He gave them 18 years of his life, and it’s like they just said, ‘The heck with him.’”
Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with #JusticeforSeanSuiter, the family members went further, saying they think there is a cover-up taking place and that investigators don’t want to get to the bottom of the case. They say they plan to hold protests.
“Something’s being covered up,” Nicole Suiter said.
In a statement, the Police Department said it has “devoted significant resources to finding out exactly what caused Det. Suiter’s tragic death” and has “thoroughly investigated every lead.”
“This remains an open homicide investigation but, at this time, there are simply no new leads to pursue,” the statement said. “Other than Det. Suiter’s family, nobody wants this case solved more than the members of the Baltimore Police Department.”
Department spokesman Matt Jablow confirmed that there is not a lead investigator assigned to the case.
Suiter was out with a fellow homicide detective on Nov. 15, 2017, when he ran into a vacant lot and was shot in the back of the head. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told reporters that Suiter had been engaged in a struggle with a suspect, and gave a possible description of an assailant.
But police later said Suiter had been shot with his own gun, which was under his body when he was rolled over, and that no suspect DNA has been found. A $215,000 reward remains unclaimed.
“The evidence simply does not support anyone other than Detective Suiter himself firing the fatal shot. Nor does the evidence support a conclusion that Detective Suiter fired that shot accidentally. That leaves only this tragic scenario,” the Independent Review Board wrote in its 127-page report last year.
The panel also cited the revelation that Suiter was set to testify the next day before a federal grand jury investigating new claims against corrupt Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the leader of the Gun Trace Task Force who is now serving 25 years in federal prison. Federal prosecutors wanted Suiter to talk about an arrest he made with Jenkins in which drugs were planted on a man.
The review panel said Suiter feared the potential outcome of the grand jury proceedings and interview with federal authorities. Suiter’s attorney, Jeremy Eldridge, adamantly disputes that Suiter was concerned about exposure.
But the family said the timing of his death isn’t irrelevant, either.
“It’s just too much of a coincidence — the day before he was due to testify. It looks like an inside job,” Suiter’s eldest child, Damira, 27, said Tuesday night.
Nicole Suiter agreed.
“I just feel like it was an inside job. That’s what I feel like,” she said.
The family did not have information to back the allegation, though Nicole Suiter said that officers she never knew have been reaching out to her after they leave the department, telling her bits of information and avenues to pursue. She declined to discuss those conversations in detail.
Last fall, WMAR obtained footage of a federal informant telling detectives he had information about a possible suspect in the shooting. Police said they looked into it and said they did not believe it was a “credible” lead, but Nicole Suiter said she considers it an open question. It and other tips received by police are not outlined in the IRB report.
The Sun also reported that the medical examiner’s office nearly changed its ruling on Suiter’s manner of death, but city prosecutors raised concerns about DNA evidence. A key member of the IRB said last year that the crime lab told him there were no open questions about DNA evidence to pursue.
Nicole Suiter said no one from the State’s Attorney’s Office has contacted her about their role in the case.
Perhaps the family’s biggest frustration about the panel’s suicide conclusion is that they say investigators never spoke to the family about his last days.
In late October 2017, the family traveled together to Jamaica for the wedding of eldest son Marquis. Their bags were lost, but Sean made sure everyone remained upbeat.
“He was having a good time, enjoying the moment,” Damira said. “It was like one of the best moments ever. We were all sitting around a table, and he was like, ‘These are the trips we want to take; I can’t wait to take the boys to Vegas...’”
Nicole Suiter often watches a video she sent her husband the day of his death. It was from the weekend, when they had attended a surprise party for a relative, and shows Sean with a huge grin doing a jig on the dance floor.
“The credibility of the report, just from the fact of not coming to the family, falls to the wayside,” said Marquis, 26. “A lot of people say, ‘You don’t know the signs.’ But we know our father … If there was something he was going through, he would’ve told us. He tells us everything, because he expects us to come to him and talk to him about stuff.”
The family spoke most of feeling let down by the police department. They say they heard the lead investigator was removed from the case, but no one told them officially, and they do not know who has the case now.
Nicole Suiter said the detective who was with Suiter when he was shot has never spoken to her. They are frustrated that new Commissioner Michael Harrison has not reached out either.
“My dad was supposed to be part of this blue family — they were supposed to look out for their own, just like he looked out for his partners and protected his partners,” Damira said. “It kind of hurts knowing they dropped the ball on their own.”