State attorney says investigation into Baltimore LEO's death still open
A day after Baltimore police officials said the investigation into Sean Suiter's death was closed, state's attorneys said it is still open
BALTIMORE — The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said Thursday that the investigation into detective Sean Suiter’s death remains open, a day after the police department said it closed its investigation.
Asked to comment about the case, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby declined to answer any questions.
“I can’t comment on open and pending matters,” Mosby said.
Mosby’s comments come a day after Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said the department closed its investigation after it received a report by the Maryland State Police of its review of the investigation into Suiter’s death. Harrison said the latest report supports an earlier external review that found Suiter committed suicide, “nor was there any suggestion that the case should be re-investigated or continued.”
The police department has not publicly released the report.
Suiter was shot in the head and killed in November 2017, after he darted into a vacant lot in West Baltimore while investigating a homicide.
The investigation prompted police to cordon off the Harlem Park neighborhood for days as the agency searched for the gunman. It was later revealed that Suiter was shot one day before he was to appear before a federal grand jury investigating the Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal.
It’s unclear whether the police department closing its case will cause the medical examiner’s office to change the manner of death, which was previously ruled a homicide.
Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the state medical examiner’s office, said Thursday he could not comment on any potential changes to the finding because of the investigation out of the state’s attorney’s office.
“We don’t discuss cases that are under investigation,” he said.
Last year, The Baltimore Sun reported Mosby’s office asked the medical examiner not to make any changes to the ruling on the cause of death in the case, citing lingering questions about DNA evidence.
A previous review of the Suiter investigation by the Independent Review Board — a group of law enforcement experts hired by the city to review the case — concluded Suiter’s death was a suicide. Gary Childs, a retired homicide detective who served on the board, told the Sun last year there were no open questions about DNA evidence. The panel’s 2018 report said “no traceable DNA was recovered from the weapon other than Suiter’s.”
On Wednesday, Suiter’s family and attorney condemned the state police report, saying it was merely rubber stamping the prior flawed investigation. Suiter’s wife Nicole, said her family wanted investigators to talk to her and learn her husband’s state of mind. She was circled by friends and family members, including the couples’ children who wore shirts that read “#JusticeForSeanSuiter.”
Suiter’s attorney, Jeremy Eldridge said Thursday that Mosby’s comments confirm his belief that police detectives and the state’s attorney’s office haven't closed the books on Suiter’s death. He called the commissioner’s words, “It’s denied reality.”
At Wednesday’s press conference with the Suiter family, he said the detective was not as a suspect in the federal probe and did not commit suicide.
“We weren’t worried about him being prosecuted,” he said. Suiter, Eldridge said, was worried about blowback from colleagues and how other officers looked at him. Eldridge said the department is a difficult place to work.
It’s unclear what the recent developments mean for the family to receive any benefits that it might be entitled to receive. A suicide finding could mean the loss of more than half a million dollars in benefits, workers’ compensation and pension payouts.
“If the death certificate changes from homicide to suicide, that is going to have a big impact on everything,” said York, Pennsylvania-based attorney Paul Siegrist, hired by the Suiter family.
“We want to act. We’ve been sitting around waiting, over a year,” since the independent review board’s investigation concluded, he said in an interview Thursday. Initially, he said they thought the death certificate could change. But Siegrist, said ultimately the board didn’t have the authority other than to give an opinion.
But, he said the state police findings could be different.
Eldridge said there is a workman’s compensation matter pending regarding Suiter’s death in the line of duty.
“In all fairness, nothing should change,” Eldridge said, adding that the family plans to pursue the funds.
The firm Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby that is representing the family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.