Police today loosened their hold on the perimeter of a crime scene where a detective was killed last week, freeing up access for neighbors whose movements have been restricted for five days.
Since Det. Sean Suiter was murdered early Wednesday evening, Baltimore police have cordoned off a section of Harlem Park around the corner of Bennett Place and Fremont Avenue. Police say they blocked off streets with squad cars and set up checkpoints to secure the area while they searched for Suiter’s killer, who remains at large. The barriers were removed this morning.
“We appreciate the support and sensitivity from our community during this difficult time,” said T.J. Smith, chief spokesman for the police department, in a Sunday statement announcing the teardown of the perimeter. “Our efforts to identify and arrest the perpetrator rely on the thoroughness of our investigation and our capacity to recover forensic, physical and other evidence.”
In the name of thoroughness and security, police were patting down residents and requiring them to show identification in order to get into and out of their neighborhood. One woman told The Sun she even missed work as a result of the crime scene lockdown (she noted she still appreciated the effort by police):
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) November 17, 2017
Civil rights attorneys have raised concerns, however. The ACLU of Maryland made the case that an investigation doesn’t warrant limiting civilians’ daily movements on the blocks they call home.
“While the search for a killer is, of course, a high priority for the police, the limits on lawful police behavior do not disappear even when engaged in that pursuit,” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the organization, in a statement. He added, “The need to secure a crime scene from contamination to preserve evidence does not, on its face, explain the wide area to which access has been restricted for days after the incident.”
Reporters had limited access to the area during the five-day period.
Police haven’t shared many many new leads from their investigation. So far, we know Suiter, dressed in a suit and tie and wearing his badge, was at the infamous intersection investigating a 2016 killing last Wednesday around 4:30 p.m. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told reporters Suiter approached a man in a vacant lot between two row houses who he said was engaging in “suspicious behaviors.”
The man then shot Suiter in the head, killing him.
Davis said the perpetrator was an African-American male wearing a black jacket with a white stripe. Police still haven’t identified any suspects.
Specifics from what happened before and during Suiter’s murder remain unclear. We do know his partner was with him at the time. Davis also said at a press conference Friday that police hadn’t ruled out that the detective may have been shot with his own gun, and found it was fired multiple times. The gun was recovered Friday.
The reward for tips helping authorities catch and convict his killer has risen to a likely historic figure of $215,000. Anyone with information can call police at 410-396-2100, Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP or the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI (option 4).
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