Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has asked the FBI to take over the investigation into the death of Detective Sean Suiter.
Davis made the request in a letter submitted Friday to FBI Director Christopher Wray in Washington. An FBI spokesman had no comment on whether the agency would agree to the request.
Davis announced his decision at a news conference Friday, saying it was prompted in part by a lack of information about a federal police corruption probe in which Suiter was scheduled to testify the day after he was shot. Davis has said Baltimore police weren’t told of Suiter’s pending testimony for nearly a week after his death. He said Friday he fears his detectives are in the dark.
“Our homicide detectives, some of the best in the business, some of the best I’ve ever seen, can’t do their jobs effectively if there is a perception or a reality that we don’t possess all the information that we need to conduct the investigation,” Davis said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning on Friday afternoon disputed Davis’ account, saying he told the police commissioner the day Suiter died of the pending testimony. Davis is “mistaken about the timing,” Schenning said.
Davis said late Friday that he was informed of Suiter’s pending testimony the day Suiter died — the day after he’d been shot. Davis said his previous comments about when he had been informed about the testimony had been misinterpreted.
Two City Council members on Thursday had urged Davis to ask the FBI to take over the investigation to assure the public it would be objective, reasoning Davis agreed with Friday.
“The community needs to know that I am willing, and this police department is willing, to invite any extra sets of eyes or resources … to look at this incident to try to figure it out,” he said.
The decision comes amid a divide among Baltimore police officials over the cause of Suiter’s death, with some investigators believing he was killed and others believing he could have committed suicide.
Suiter, a homicide detective, was fatally shot in the head Nov. 15 during what Davis has described repeatedly in recent weeks as a violent struggle with an unknown suspect on a troubled block in West Baltimore.
Davis said Friday that investigators also have looked into the possibility Suiter committed suicide, but have found no evidence supporting that theory. “There is no evidence whatsoever right now that leads us to suspect that,” Davis said. But he also said police have not recovered any DNA or other forensic evidence to prove Suiter was shot by another person.
Inside the Police Department, officials are divided about where the evidence points. While some share the commissioner’s view that the case appears to be a homicide, some lean toward suicide as the most likely explanation, sources have told The Baltimore Sun.
“The evidence we have could mean a lot of different things,” one source knowledgeable about the investigation said. “There’s no particular evidence that would indicate murder, accident, or suicide.”