The search for a suspect in the killing of Baltimore Police Det. Sean Suiter entered a sixth day Monday — putting the case in uncharted territory for an agency with a recent track record of quickly apprehending killers of its own.
Since 1964, suspects in the killings of city officers have been caught within a few days, according to news accounts and a book, “Some Gave All,” which documents each line-of-duty death in the agency’s history. Even in the case of the three-month manhunt for the Veney brothers in 1964, the siblings were developed as suspects at the crime scene.
In the vast majority of cases, suspects were caught at the scene. The longest period of time in recent decades between an officer’s killing and the apprehension of a suspect appears to be in 1985, when it took authorities five days to capture a suspect who fled across the country and was apprehended at a bus station in Tulsa, Okla.
Suiter, an 18-year veteran, was shot around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and died the following day. Police have said he was conducting a follow-up investigation on a triple homicide in the area, when he saw a suspicious person a vacant lot and approached. He was shot once in the head.
Even by Baltimore standards, recent crimes have many feeling as if the city has tipped over into a terrible place of lawlessness, coupled with a seeming inability by its leadership to right the course.
Police said Friday that the only ballistics evidence recovered from the scene came from Suiter’s service weapon. In pleading for tips, they have not been sharing a suspect description. A reward of $215,000 remains unclaimed.
The area around the shooting scene reopened to the public Monday after days locked down as an active crime scene. Police said they wanted to preserve the scene in the event that new leads emerged, bringing questions from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, among others. Suiter’s body was not taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for an autopsy until Saturday.
This decade has been the least deadly for Baltimore Police officers. A city police officer had not been fatally shot by a suspect in the line of duty since 2007, when Troy Lamont Chesley was shot in a robbery while off-duty. Because Chesley used his service weapon to shoot back, the incident is concerned a line-of-duty death. Brandon Grimes, who was convicted in the attack, left a blood trail and was arrested the same day after seeking treatment at a local hospital.
Thirteen city police officers were killed by suspects in the 1970s, including four in 1974.
The Veney brothers shot two officers, on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, in 1964. Lt. Joseph Maskell was shot twice after he responded to a call about a robbery in progress at the Luxies Liquor store in the 2000 block of Greenmount Ave. Sgt. Jack Cooper was shot and killed the next morning, in the 2600 block of Kennedy Ave. The wallet of Emanuel Jefferson Veney, which contained his driver’s license, was found on the floor of Cooper’s patrol car, and the Veney’s would make the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
During a 19-day manhunt, police searched 200 homes in black communities without obtaining search warrants. The illegal searches prompted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to file a federal lawsuit that resulted in an 1966 injunction against the city police. The Veney brothers were captured in March 1965 while working in a zipper factory on Long Island, N.Y.