On the street where Baltimore Police homicide Detective Sean Suiter was found fatally shot in the head, there was disbelief that he could have committed suicide, as an independent panel has reportedly concluded.
“I don’t think so,” said Melvin Tenney, 62, who lives along the 900 block of Bennett Place in Harlem Park, a few yards from where police found Suiter in November. “I don’t believe it because he had to go to court next day against officers.”
The detective was shot the day before he was supposed to give testimony before a federal grand jury investigating Baltimore’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. Suiter was not a target of that investigation, police have said.
A medical examiner had ruled Suiter’s death a homicide. Police have not made any arrests in the case.
On Monday, an attorney for Suiter’s widow said the independent panel has concluded that the officer likely took his own life. Paul Siegrist, an attorney for Nicole Suiter, said his client was informed of the determination last week.
Tenney, who said he spoke to police multiple times in the hours and days after the shooting, said he heard three shots the afternoon police found Suiter.
“If he’s going to commit suicide, why three shots?” Tenney asked.
“No, I don’t believe it. Nobody will make me believe it,” said Annette Jenkins, 54, of the suicide finding. Jenkins, who lives with Tenney, said she didn’t hear the shots because she was in the kitchen.
“I think someone killed him and put the gun in his hand,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins and other residents said they were inconvenienced for days as police blocked off their neighborhood during the investigation, forcing residents to show identification as they tried to get to and from their homes. Jenkins said she missed doctors’ appointments because a transport van couldn’t get to her street.
“Seems like a cover-up,” said Mohammad Arqub, 49, a homeowner on Bennett Place.
“Why would he come here? Someone who wants to commit suicide come here to a neighborhood with families?” Arqub said.
Farther down the street, Anthony Mellerson, 58, shared in their skepticism.
“Police supposed to be testifying against other police that day and all of a sudden he turns up dead,” Mellerson said. “That is the type of stuff gangs do.”
“On top of that, that make us hostage at home, making us get permission to go to own home.”
In Baltimore, where eight members of the Gun Trace Task Force have been convicted of federal racketeering charges, trust of police policing themselves runs thin among many residents.
Prosecutors have said that misconduct by the officers in the Gun Trace Task Force went on for years.
“Don’t they have an internal affairs?” asked Mellerson. “Aren’t they supposed to police the police? Where are they at?”
“It’s 2018 and we’re living in Dodge City,” he said, referring to the 1939 American Western film about the lawlessness of Dodge City, Kan.
An internal debate emerged within the police department about whether evidence suggested Suiter’s death could have been a suicide or homicide, and then-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa created the review board in April to look into the case as well as the Police Department’s handling of the crime scene in Harlem Park. De Sousa would later step down after being indicted by federal prosecutors on failure to pay taxes charges.