Det. Sean Suiter “unwittingly” became part of a scheme in which corrupt Baltimore police officers planted heroin on two suspects following a deadly high-speed chase through West Baltimore in 2010, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said today. This month, seven years later, Suiter was shot dead the day before he was set to testify against one of those corrupt officers.
Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, a member of the infamous Gun Trace Task Force currently awaiting trial on federal racketeering and fraud charges, was slapped with two additional counts today: Destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation, and deprivation of rights under color of law.
An indictment unsealed and released by the U.S. Justice Department spells out a “Bad Boys”-like sequence: Jenkins and a partner, dubbed “Officer #2,” were engaged in a chase with Umar Burley and Brent Matthews one day in 2010. “Officer #1” – revealed as then-Officer Sean Suiter by Davis at a press conference today – was trailing them in his own vehicle.
At the intersection of Belle Avenue and Gwynn Oak Avenue, Burley and Matthews’ car crashed into another car being driven by an elderly couple, hitting it so hard that it the vehicle was pushed up against a nearby row house. The driver, an 88-year-old man, died as a result.
In the aftermath, prosecutors say Jenkins asked “Officer #2” to call another sergeant to bring “stuff” to plant in the car. By the time medics arrived, Jenkins had planted 28 grams of heroin somewhere in the car, according to the indictment. (The other two officers’ identities remain hidden.)
Suiter fell into the trap at this point, according to Davis. The indictment says Jenkins knew Suiter was “clueless,” so he sent him to search the car. Suiter found the drugs, wrapped up in 32 individual packets. Jenkins then allegedly wrote a falsified statement of probable cause, listing the discovery of the drugs as evidence.
That information was used to convict Burley and Matthews of heroin possession charges. Prosecutors say the men pleaded guilty in 2011, assuming they would lose in a trial pitted against Jenkins, despite knowing they were innocent.
“What this indictment outlines is that Sean Suiter was not involved in any way, shape or form in any criminal misconduct, whatsoever,” a pained-looking Davis said Thursday. “Detective Suiter was used…and he was put in a position where he unwittingly recovered drugs that had been planted by another police officer. And that’s a damn shame, that really, really is.”
The feds learned of all of this as they were investigating the Gun Trace Task Force’s years-long tenure of stealing from suspects and civilians, selling stolen drugs and guns for profit, falsifying timesheets and other criminal behavior. Matthews had already been out on supervised release since 2013 – after serving two-and-a-half years of prison time, notably – but Burley was still behind bars in a federal facility.
He was set free in August 2017, officials said today. The Justice Department has now moved to vacate both of their convictions.
Police had already confirmed rumors last week that Suiter was tied up in some way with the trouble initiated by the Gun Trace Task Force. Davis revealed last Wednesday that Suiter was scheduled to testify before a grand jury on Nov. 16 in connection with “an incident that occurred several years ago with BPD police officers who were federally indicted in March of this year.”
The new indictment brings Jenkins’ alleged misconduct into broader view, strongly suggesting he was engaging in dirty behavior well before the Gun Trace Task Force was formed in summer of 2013.
The Office of the Public Defender says hundreds of the 2,000-plus court cases now under review as a result of the March indictments involve Jenkins.
“The extent of criminal activity conducted by BPD officers on duty over many years is shocking,” said Debbie Katz Levi, head of the OPD’s Special Litigation Section, in a statement Thursday. “We need massive culture change in the Department and urgent attention must be given to the citizens who have been charged and convicted based on the alleged observations of these officers.”
She added, “the new indictment shows how every case touched by Jenkins and the other indicted officers is irreparably tainted.”
Jenkins’ trial is set to begin on Jan. 16, 2018. He faces an additional 20 years in prison with his new charges, on top of the 20 years he was already facing.
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