FBI declines to lead investigation into unsolved murder of veteran Baltimore detective

PHOTO:Members of the Baltimore Police Department gather near the scene of the shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter in Baltimore, Nov. 17, 2017. Patrick Semansky/AP Photo, FILE
Members of the Baltimore Police Department gather near the scene of the shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter in Baltimore, Nov. 17, 2017.

The FBI has declined to lead an investigation into the murder of a veteran Baltimore detective who was killed one day before he was due to testify in a federal police corruption trial, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

On Nov. 15, homicide Det. Sean Suiter, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, was killed last month while conducting a follow-up to a homicide investigation, police said. While on the scene, Suiter approached a man who he saw was engaging in suspicious activity, and the man shot Suiter in the head shortly after with Suiter's own gun, police said.

Suiter was scheduled to testify the next day in federal court regarding an ongoing corruption investigation of eight police officers being led by the FBI, which is what led Davis to request that the FBI assume a lead in the murder investigation into Suiter’s death, he said.

Yesterday, Davis received a letter from FBI Assistant Director Stephen Richardson, explaining that since "no information has been developed to indicate Det. Suiter’s death was directly connected to an FBI investigation," the investigation into his murder should remain with the Baltimore Police Department.

The FBI emphasized its "current commitment" to assist the police department, which will include providing FBI analytical, forensic and investigative support as well as $25,000 toward a reward "for information leading to the arrest of anyone who may have been involved in this matter," the letter states, according to Davis, who added that the total reward stands at $215,000.

PHOTO: This undated photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department shows Det. Sean Suiter. Suiter was shot on Nov. 15, 2017, in a particularly troubled area of West Baltimore while investigating a 2016 homicide and died from his wounds the next day.Baltimore Police Department via AP Photo, FILE
This undated photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department shows Det. Sean Suiter. Suiter was shot on Nov. 15, 2017, in a particularly troubled area of West Baltimore while investigating a 2016 homicide and died from his wounds the next day.

The case will remain with the Baltimore Police Department, Davis said. He described his decision to ask the FBI to take the lead in the investigation as a "unusual step" taken out of an abundance of caution, given that Suiter was due to testify in the federal corruption trial the next day.

"The best detectives in the world are here in Baltimore," he said. "They're great at what they do."

Davis said he is aware of several "working theories" surrounding Suiter's death, including that another police officer could have been involved or that Suiter potentially took his own life.

The FBI's decision to not lead the murder investigation reiterates in "black and white" that Suiter's death had nothing to do with the pending corruption investigation into the department, Davis said. In addition, there is "zero evidence" to suggest that Suiter committed suicide, Davis said.

"So, what we have left before us is a murder committed by a yet-to-be-identified perpetrator," Davis said.

PHOTO:Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis, third from right, speaks alongside Mayor Catherine Pugh at a news conference outside the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Nov.16, 2017, to announce the death of Det. Sean Suiter. Patrick Semansky/AP Photo, FILE
PHOTO:Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis, third from right, speaks alongside Mayor Catherine Pugh at a news conference outside the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Nov.16, 2017, to announce the death of Det. Sean Suiter.

Detectives will now re-examine evidence and potentially re-interview witnesses, Davis said. The tips they have received so far have not permitted authorities to identify a suspect or furthered their understanding of the circumstances surrounding Suiter's death, Davis said.

PHOTO:Members of the Baltimore Police Department gather near the scene of the shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter in Baltimore, Nov. 17, 2017. Patrick Semansky/AP Photo, FILE
PHOTO:Members of the Baltimore Police Department gather near the scene of the shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter in Baltimore, Nov. 17, 2017.

On Nov. 30, Davis revealed that Suiter was the officer identified in a federal indictment against a former Baltimore Police sergeant as "Officer #1," who found drugs that the sergeant allegedly planted in a crashed vehicle he had been pursuing in a 2010 police chase. Suiter had not yet been promoted to detective, and Davis stressed that he "was not involved in any way, shape or form in any criminal misconduct whatsoever."

Rather, Suiter was "used" and "put into a position where he unwittingly recovered drugs that had been planted by another officer," Davis said.

Given the ongoing corruption investigation involving eight Baltimore police officers, Davis said he understands the skepticism and cynicism the community holds toward the police department, adding that the investigation delivered a "blow to this city in 2017."

"We're going back to 2008, 2009, uncovering close to a decade of crimes that these rogue cops committed in the streets of Baltimore," Davis said.

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