The conclusion by an independent panel of policing experts that Baltimore police Det. Sean Suiter committed suicide last year could have consequences for his family, the police department and the medical examiner’s office.
Suiter was fatally shot in West Baltimore’s Harlem Park neighborhood while investigating a triple homicide in November. Police initially treated the case as a murder, but now the independent panel has contradicted that conclusion, saying the case was a suicide, according to a lawyer representing Suiter’s widow, Nicole.
The detective’s death had been the subject of competing theories within the police department, with some officers thinking there was evidence of homicide while others leaned toward the conclusion that Suiter had killed himself.
Whether the report is accepted as the last word on the case is just one of the questions that remains. Here’s what else is likely to come next:
» The panel finalized the report Friday, and it is likely to be released in its entirety, although officials have set no timetable for its publication. The document could set out in more detail how the panel reached its conclusions and raise questions about how police initially handled the case.
» The police department, the mayor’s office and the city council president declined to comment on the report’s findings until the document is released. When it is, they’ll face questions about whether they accept the findings. The report’s conclusions could prompt fresh questions about the police department’s ability to investigate itself.
» The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Suiter’s death a homicide. The report challenges that conclusion and Dr. David Fowler, the medical examiner, said Monday he would review it and “evaluate and we will do the honest thing.”
» Suiter’s family faces the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in death benefits, special pension payouts and workers’ compensation if the officials who award the money conclude that the detective was not not killed in the line of duty. Gerard Shields, a spokesman for the Maryland public safety department, said its lawyers would review the panel’s report in determining whether the family is eligible for a $158,000 payout from the state. Other agencies with funds at play are the U.S. Justice Department, the state Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Baltimore Fire and Police Employees’ Retirement System. It is unclear whether any of these benefits have been distributed.