BPD closes Suiter case after state police review, maintains suicide ruling

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Det. Sean Suiter. Photo via Baltimore Police Department.

The Baltimore Police Department has closed the case on the death of Sean Suiter after a review by the Maryland State Police found nothing to suggest it “was anything other than a suicide,” Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said today.

The inquiry did not determine the case needed to be re-investigated, and because of that, and the similar conclusion of an independent board tasked with looking into Suiter’s 2017 death, the BPD made its decision, the commissioner said.

“Regardless of the circumstances, Det. Suiter’s death was a tragedy and we will continue to keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers,” Harrison said.

Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said in a statement the agency did not ever take control of the case, nor did investigators ever start their own examination of what happened on the evening of Nov. 15, 2017, in Harlem Park.

“State Police investigators who reviewed the case files believe the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Unit conducted an exhaustive investigation into the death of Detective Sean Suiter,” Shipley said.

The state agency’s report was completed and submitted to the BPD earlier this month.

Suiter family attorney Jeremy Eldridge, surrounded by the late detectives family members and supporters, said the statement from Harrison was “rubber-stamping the already-flawed” independent report commissioned by the BPD.

Elridge said he and the family met with Harrison before the start of the Maryland State Police review and were promised “an investigation with clean hands.”

“That is not what we received,” he said. “That is not what Baltimore City deserves, and that’s not what Sean’s legacy merits.”

Harrison asked for the Maryland State Police review after Suiter’s family earlier this year alleged the detective’s death was an “inside job.” They had also questioned the results of a 2018 independent report, launched by then-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, that determined Suiter took his own life in a vacant lot.

Nearly two years ago, Suiter and another homicide detective, David Bomenka–not Suiter’s usual partner–to go over a 2016 triple murder, when he was shot in the head with his own gun. Initially, then-Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said a man approached Suiter in the lot and, after a confrontation, wrested the detective’s handgun away from him and fired.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. Police locked down the Harlem Park neighborhood for days–unconstitutionally, some critics have said–as they searched for possible suspects and clues.

It was later revealed that Suiter was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury as part of the federal probe into the Gun Trace Task Force police the day after the shooting, though Davis tried to paint it as if Suiter had been “used” by the rogue group, which was eventually convicted of stealing, planting evidence, falsifying police reports and other crimes.

Despite large sums of reward money and the police department’s aggressive tactics, the case went unsolved for months. In April 2018, De Sousa tapped an independent board of seven former law enforcement officers, criminal justice analysts and a lawyer to determine Suiter’s death was a homicide, an accidental injury, a suicide or “if it was caused by something internally within the department.”

Four months later, with the department now under the control of Gary Tuggle, the board released a report stating Suiter had killed himself, pointing to traces of Suiter’s DNA inside the barrel of his gun, a splatter of blood on his shirt sleeve and a grainy video from a house on the 900 block of Bennett Place.

“The Bennett Place Video shows Bomenka running towards Schroeder Street (away from the lot) just eight to nine seconds after he began running towards the lot where Suiter was shot,” the report said. “Accordingly, all of the actions that led to Detective Suiter’s death must have occurred in a time period of less than nine seconds.”

James “Chips” Stewart, chair of the Independent Review Board, chalked up the medical examiner’s ruling of a homicide to “sloppiness” as medical professionals rushed to save Suiter’s life.

“The difficulty is that all of a sudden it gets into a permanent narrative and you hear about it, and you keep saying, why are you changing the story,” he said.

The report revealed Suiter had been talking with his lawyer, Eldridge, about meeting with federal prosecutors in the days leading up to his death. Despite Davis’ earlier characterization of the Suiter’s involvement with the GTTF, one of the cops in the unit, Momodu Gondo, told the feds the late detective had had knowingly planted drugs  after a high-speed chase that ended with two men striking another car, killing one of the people inside. Those men were later proven innocent and exonerated.

In October 2017, FBI agents reached out to Suiter for an interview, which he declined. Suiter was then served with a federal subpoena, and was eventually offered limited immunity to discuss the incident.

Speaking today, Eldridge and Suiter’s wife, Nicole, pledged to continue searching for answers and pushing back on the official police narrative.

“We’re ready for war,” they both said.

This story has been updated.

Brandon Weigel

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