Three weeks after Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis asked the FBI to take over the investigation into the fatal West Baltimore shooting of Det. Sean Suiter in November, he still didn’t have an answer.
T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said Friday that the FBI had yet to respond to the letter Davis sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Dec. 1, in which Davis asked the FBI to take over the case.
Suiter, a Baltimore homicide detective and a husband and father, was shot with his own gun while on duty in a vacant lot in Harlem Park, where he was investigating a 2016 triple homicide. It was later revealed that he was due to testify the day after he was shot before a federal grand jury in a police corruption case involving eight other police officers.
Davis has said that he does not believe there is a link between Suiter’s death and his scheduled testimony in the corruption case. But in his letter to Wray, he suggested his homicide detectives lack information related to the broader federal corruption probe that might be relevant to the Suiter investigation.
On Friday, Smith said those same homicide detectives are continuing to receive tips and pursue leads in the “active murder investigation” into Suiter’s death, and are “more than capable” of investigating the case themselves. But, he said, the independence of the FBI was welcomed.
Smith said he does not find it odd that the FBI still had not responded to Davis’ request three weeks after it was made.
“We don’t describe that as unusual,” Smith said. “They have a lot of their own work to do, a lot of different things that they are already involved in.”
Smith said the FBI “have to prove that they have jurisdiction over a case like this before they take the case.”
The FBI has declined to comment on Davis’ letter, other than to say that it has been received and that they would respond directly to the police department.
Speculation has swirled around the case for weeks.
While police have described the case as a homicide — and said from the start that they believe Suiter was shot in a brief but violent attack — some investigators have pursued other theories, including that Suiter may have shot himself.
The fact Suiter was meant to testify the day after his death has also stoked other theories.
Suiter was to testify in a case in which federal prosecutors allege Sgt. Wayne Jenkins planted drugs on a criminal defendant and then duped Suiter into finding those drugs. Jenkins is one of eight police officers linked to the now dismantled Gun Trace Task Force who were indicted earlier this year for allegedly robbing citizens, filing false court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims.
Five of the officers have pleaded guilty.
This week, a U.S. District Court judge vacated the convictions of two men in the drug-planting case involving Jenkins and Suiter. Judge Richard D. Bennett apologized to Umar Burley and Brent Matthews.
Davis has said he was told by the government that Suiter was not a target of the grand jury investigation. But Burley’s attorney, Steve Silverman, said after Burley’s conviction was vacated that Suiter rammed Burley’s vehicle from behind while drawing his gun and wearing all black and a face mask.
Smith on Friday said detectives investigating Suiter’s death had not reached out to Burley and Matthews, as far as he knew. Smith also said no police officers were being investigated in the case.
Smith said there was no time limit on when the FBI was expected to respond to Davis’ request. He said the police department’s “working relationship” with the FBI is better than ever.
He would not comment on what would occur if the FBI declined to take over the case.
Mayor Catherine Pugh this week said that, if the FBI declines to take the case, she would like to see some other investigative agency step in to review it.
There is a $215,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest in Suiter’s death. Anyone with information is asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100.