By Stephen Janis and Taya Graham, Special to the AFRO
According to former Baltimore Police Department (BPD) Commissioner Kevin Davis, homicide detective Sean Suiter did not commit suicide. In fact, the theory that the veteran cop shot himself with his own gun in a west Baltimore alley seems improbable to the man who was at the helm when Suiter died.
“I think it will be a tragedy if they change it from homicide, there is not enough evidence to support doing that to Suiter or his family,” Davis said in a wide-ranging interview with the AFRO.
The former police commissioner also specifically blasted a recently released report that concluded Suiter more than likely shot himself.
“Suicide requires you to make huge assumptions about Suiter’s state of mind, how can you talk about his state of mind without talking to people close to him?” Davis said of the investigation conducted by an Independent Review Board, which did not include interviews with Suiter’s family.
Suiter died from a bullet wound to the head delivered by his own gun in a west Baltimore alley in November, 2017.
Initially, police said Suiter was the victim of a lone Black gunman.
But, Suiter’s pending testimony before a federal grand jury in a 2010 case involving a member of the disgraced Gun Trace Task Force the day before he was shot, fueled speculation he took his own life. It’s a theory Davis says is not backed up by the evidence.
“I just don’t know what the IRB was thinking,” he said. “They started with a conclusion and they went about proving it.”
The Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) was a group of eight Baltimore police officers who were either convicted of or pleaded guilty to robbing residents, dealing drugs, and stealing overtime pay.
Davis waited a week to reveal Suiter was set to testify before a federal grand jury about his role in a 2010 robbery involving the GTTF ringleader former BPD Sgt.Wayne Jenkins; a move the IRB report criticized, but Davis defended.
“I made a point not to speak about the testimony before he was buried out of respect to his family,” Davis added.
Davis also refused to rule out the possibility Suiter was either murdered by a lone assailant, or the victim of an internal conspiracy of fellow officers to silence him before he testified.
“That’s even more of a reason not to make this concerted effort to jump on the suicide bandwagon. You can’t rule anything out at this point,” he said.
The former top cop also contends the panel was influenced by the opinions of top commanders who had already concluded Suiter had committed suicide.
“Twelve days after I was fired a memo was written basically declaring Suiter’s death a suicide,” he said.
“I spoke to those closest to Suiter, zero indication; happily married and no signs of distress. To think that a homicide detective would stage his own suicide in broad daylight is absurd.”
Davis also brushed aside criticism that one of his most controversial decisions, the six-day, multi-block lockdown of Harlem Park, was unwarranted.
“There were multi reasons for holding Bennet Street. Most of the homes are vacant. We were in and out of those vacant homes because we were under the impression there was an active shooter,” Davis said.
But, there were other concerns that factored into his decision to hold Harlem Park, Davis said. Among them: missing bullet casings, a hot tip that a woman was harboring a wounded suspect in the area, and the fact that doctors initially told commanders the deadly bullet entered the front of Suiter’s head.
“Imagine the scrutiny if, in fact, a shooter escaped after being holed up for a couple days inside a vacant building?”
Davis also took issue with the evidence used to support the suicide finding, including the blood spatter found inside Suiter’s right sleeve.
“The fact that they rely on existence of forensic evidence on Suiter’s shirt cuff, to me that is totally irrelevant. You can have your cuff close to a gun that is used to kill you,” he said.
The comments from Davis come as the community continues to express doubts that Suiter’s death was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Community activist Christopher Ervin believes the shifting narrative shortly after Suiter’s death and the extended lockdown of Harlem Part justifies skepticism.
“I think that it is entirely a possible scenario that the lockdown was done as a ruse,” he said.
Which is why Davis believes the department, and the community should not jump to conclusions.
“I didn’t mislead anyone,” he argued. “And now this game of revisionist history is underway.”