The FBI has rejected the Baltimore Police Department’s request to take over the investigation of Detective Sean Suiter’s death, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis announced Wednesday.
The FBI says there is no evidence to suggest Suiter’s death was directly connected to the police corruption case that Suiter was set to testify in the day after he was shot, or another FBI investigation.
“For [that] reason we believe it’s prudent for the [Baltimore Police] to continue as the lead in this investigation with our current commitment to assist and support you fully [with] FBI analytical, forensic and investigative support,” FBI Assistant Director Stephen Richardson said in a letter to Davis. “If we develop information that changes our assessment of the investigation, we will, of course, take appropriate action.”
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to support the ongoing investigation and will help identify any leads in the case. The $25,000 reward from the FBI for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the case remains. The Baltimore Police Department’s $215,000 reward for information still stands as well.
Davis asked FBI Director Christopher Wray for the FBI to take over the case three weeks ago.
In an announcement Wednesday, Davis said they have no real physical evidence that ties to one individual person or suspect in the case. Suiter was shot in the head with his own weapon while investigating a case in West Baltimore last month.
He also said there is “Zero evidence” that Detective Suiter’s death was suicide.
“I took the unusual step to ask the FBI to take the lead on this investigation primarily because of the extraordinary circumstances associated with the death of Detective Suiter,” Davis said. “Primarily the fact that he was scheduled to testify as a witness the very next day in federal court regarding an ongoing corruption investigation led by the FBI. It was out of an abundance of caution.
“I wanted the credibility to be at its very highest level. I want it to be transparent,” Davis said. “I wanted then and still want now folks in Baltimore to realize that I will not hesitate to ask for any assistance whatsoever to help us get to the bottom of this case.”
Davis says tips have come in, but they have not helped the investigation identify a person of interest.
“I’m waiting for that 3 a.m. phone call in the middle of the night that says ‘Guess what? we just got that break in this thing,’ and I’m optimistic that will eventually happen,” Davis said.
Davis says homicides don’t always get solved right away, citing a few high-profile homicide cases that were solved this year, those being the McKenzie Elliott and Latrina Ashburne cases. Those cases began in 2014 and 2016.
“I hear the [corruption] concerns…the eight indicted police officers is something that has been a blow to this city in 2017,” Davis said. “I understand skepticism…and that’s primarily the reason I asked the FBI to take the lead in this case.”
While the case will not be investigated publicly, Davis says a copy of the radio transmission made by Suiter clearly sounds like him in distress. He will reconsider releasing that audio now that the request for the FBI to take over the investigation is no longer pending.
Davis says a thorough re-examination and a fresh set of eyes on everything is always helpful in an investigation.
“These Baltimore Police detectives are the best in the business,” Davis said. “It’s not a matter of any questioning or doubt about the talent that exists in BPD homicide because that talent is there, but it’s such an emotional thing to investigate the death, not only of a police officer but a fellow detective.”