The time has come for the Baltimore Police Department to surrender its investigation of Det. Sean Suiter’s Nov. 15 murder to the feds, say Council President Jack Young and Councilman Brandon Scott.
The pair of city lawmakers sent a letter to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis Thursday afternoon urging him to hand off the highly sensitive and increasingly complicated case to the FBI.
“Placing the current investigation into the hands of seasoned and skilled federal authorities would allow members of the Baltimore Police homicide division the chance to properly mourn their fallen comrade,” they wrote in their letter, which was also addressed to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Mayor Catherine Pugh and the two leaders of Baltimore’s delegation in Annapolis.
“An independently conducted investigation would be the quickest way to provide the public and those who loved Det. Suiter with the answers they rightly deserve.”
Suiter, 43, was murdered at point-blank range in the early evening hours of Nov. 15 while investigating an unsolved 2016 triple homicide in West Baltimore’s Harlem Park neighborhood. Davis had said Suiter approached a man in a vacant lot near Bennett Place and N. Fremont Avenue, allegedly due to “suspicious behavior”; police believe a struggle ensued, several shots were fired, and Suiter was killed with his own gun.
His killer was described early on as a black male wearing a black jacket with a white stripe on it. Police locked down the neighborhood for five days afterward, to no avail in catching any suspects.
The circumstances surrounding the 18-year veteran cop’s death have grown increasingly suspicious. A morose-looking Davis yesterday confirmed rumors that Suiter had been tied to a controversial case involving at least one city police officer indicted earlier this year on racketeering charges.
Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, already awaiting trial in January for those allegations, was slapped with two more charges yesterday for allegedly planting heroin on two suspects after a 2010 high-speed chase that ended in a deadly crash near Gwynn Oak. Suiter was the officer who found the planted heroin in the car, Davis said; the evidence was used to wrongfully convict two men who’ve since been set free, according to prosecutors.
“Detective Suiter was used…and he was put in a position where he unwittingly recovered drugs that had been planted by another police officer,” Davis said.
Seven years later, Suiter was scheduled to testify before a grand jury about that case involving Jenkins on Nov. 16. He was killed the night before.
Asked to comment on the letter from Young and Scott, police spokesman T.J. Smith said only that the department plans to hold a press conference Friday afternoon with more details on the Suiter case.
Rep. Elijah Cummings has also pressed for the FBI to begin assisting city police, WBAL reports. “A lot of people are concerned about [the murder], and I got the impression listening to the head of the FBI that they are concerned about it, too,” the Baltimore congressman said.
The FBI’s website notes that the bureau doesn’t simply “take over” investigations, per se; “instead, the investigative resources of the FBI and state and local agencies are often pooled in a common effort to investigate and solve the cases,” the agency says.
However, federal law dictates that the feds can’t step in without the go-ahead from the local police commissioner. As of Friday morning, they don’t have Davis’ blessing.
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