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Baltimore Mayor Pugh, ex-police chief Davis differ over who sought FBI to investigate Sean Suiter's death

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Mayor Catherine Pugh at a press conference announcing that Det. Sean Suiter, an 18-year veteran of the department, had died after being shot in the head.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Mayor Catherine Pugh at a press conference announcing that Det. Sean Suiter, an 18-year veteran of the department, had died after being shot in the head. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Former Baltimore police commissioner Kevin Davis disputed Mayor Catherine Pugh's assertion on Wednesday that she asked for the FBI to take over the homicide investigation of Det. Sean Suiter.

"Let me again be clear. I asked for an FBI investigation," Pugh said during her Wednesday news conference. "I was the one who went over to the police department and [said], 'You all need to bring the FBI into this case.'"

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The Democratic mayor made the remarks after she was asked about current police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa's comment this week that the city's homicide detectives never should have taken on the case given their personal relationships with Suiter, who was also a homicide detective.

She said she gave the directive asking for the FBI to investigate after Suiter's funeral. "I just felt that there needed to be another set of eyes on the whole Suiter case," she said.

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Davis, who was fired by Pugh in January, took issue with the comments by Pugh and De Sousa.

He said the FBI "was on scene and embedded" in the Suiter investigation starting the night Suiter was shot Nov. 15, and that Pugh never told him to ask the FBI to take over the case.

The decision was his alone, he said, and one that "had nothing to do with the BPD homicide unit's capacity to emotionally handle the 137th killing of a police officer in Baltimore's history."

Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said Tuesday that he is considering removing the investigation into Det. Sean Suiter’s death from his department’s homicide unit entirely, because having them investigate their friend and colleague’s death was “unfair” from the start.

"In fact, there is no one better experienced or equipped to handle this case," Davis said. "BPD homicide detectives possess far too much pride and professionalism to allow emotion to be the enemy of their investigative prowess and integrity. To now suggest otherwise is pure political spin."

Davis said his decision to ask the FBI to take over was based on other concerns, including that the FBI and Maryland's U.S. Attorney's Office might be withholding relevant information from the homicide unit.

Suiter was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury the day after he was shot about a case linked to the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. Suiter had been at the scene of an arrest where members of the unit had planted drugs on a man.

Davis wrote in a letter to to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Dec. 1 that he was "growing increasingly uncomfortable that my homicide detectives do not know all of the facts known to" the FBI and federal prosecutors.

A timeline of the investigation into Baltimore homicide Detective Sean Suiter's death, according to statements by public officials and Baltimore Sun reporting.

In a response letter directed to Davis, FBI Assistant Director Stephen Richardson wrote that the FBI had no reason to believe that Suiter's death was related to his pending testimony or any other federal case and that it would be "prudent" for the Baltimore police to continue as the lead investigating agency.

A day before Davis asked the FBI to take over the investigation, City Council President Bernard C. Jack Young and Councilman Brandon Scott called on Davis to ask for the federal agency to intervene.

The city is finalizing an agreement with a six-member panel — including two former Baltimore police detectives — to review Suiter's unsolved death. But the panel has been described as providing an additional set of eyes on the case, not as providing a new lead investigating agency.

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