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Maryland State Police to review death of Baltimore police Det. Sean Suiter after outcry from family

The Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police plan to conduct a joint review of the death of city homicide detective Sean Suiter, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said.

Harrison told The Baltimore Sun that he asked Maryland State Police Superintendent William M. Pallozzi in recent weeks to have troopers look at the case, and Pallozzi agreed. The review has not begun, Harrison said.

The move follows an outcry from Suiter’s family that the unsolved case was being ignored. A previous outside review of the case by a panel of experts concluded that Suiter most likely took his own life, and the city homicide unit’s lead investigator was removed from the case in recent months and not replaced. But Suiter’s death remains classified as a homicide by the state medical examiner’s office.

Elena Russo, a spokeswoman for the state police, said the discussions were “preliminary.”

“MSP will not be assuming responsibility for the investigation,” Russo said.

Suiter’s attorney Jeremy Eldridge said Harrison told him and Suiter’s widow that Baltimore Police officers “who were not involved in the investigation to begin with” would work with the troopers.

“The fact that the new commissioner has taken some affirmative steps to investigate Sean’s death is something I and the family are very optimistic about,” Eldridge said. “This is the first movement in the case in a very long time.”

Suiter was shot in the head and killed in November 2017, after he darted into a vacant lot in West Baltimore while investigating a homicide with another detective. A six-figure reward was quickly offered, but the investigation stalled. It was later revealed that Suiter was shot one day before he was to appear before a federal grand jury investigating the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal.

Over time, some within the police department began to believe the evidence suggested Suiter took his own life. Police say he was shot with his own gun, which was found under his body when he was rolled over, and that no suspect DNA has been found. A convicted Gun Trace Task Force officer testified that he stole money with Suiter years earlier.

Here's what happened in the minutes surrounding Det. Suiter's shooting, according to panel's report »

The Independent Review Board, created by then-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, said it believed Suiter was concerned his own alleged misconduct could be exposed.

“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.

Suiter’s family has expressed frustration about the handling of the case, saying the well-regarded detective did not kill himself and was in good spirits in the days and weeks before his death. His widow, Nicole, has said that she believes the case could be an “inside job” that is being covered up.

Last year, a video was leaked that showed a federal informant gave police information about a possible suspect, though police said the lead was pursued and deemed not credible.

Contacted Wednesday, Nicole Suiter said she was cautiously optimistic about the state police review.

“So far, yeah, it sounds good,” she said. “But you know how it turned out the last time. We just have to wait and see the outcome.”

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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