Baltimore cop likely killed self, review board says

David Mcfadden
Associated Press

Baltimore — The gunshot that killed a Baltimore detective one day before he was to testify in front of a grand jury investigating dirty cops was likely self-inflicted, leaders of an independent review board announced Wednesday.

The panel’s unanimous decision is the latest twist in a real-life whodunit that has captivated Baltimore for 10 months. When 43-year-old Detective Sean Suiter was found Nov. 15, dying from a bullet wound to the skull, police and the state medical examiner’s office called his on-duty death a homicide. Authorities launched a massive manhunt.

But from the start, there was widespread skepticism about the police narrative suggesting Suiter approached a suspicious man in a vacant West Baltimore lot between row houses, got into a violent struggle and was shot with his own gun. Nobody was ever charged in his death.

Now, in their 207-page final report , the seven-member independent review board says all the evidence they’ve reviewed “simply does not support anyone other than Detective Suiter himself firing the fatal shot.”

Among the evidence: The gun barrel was in contact with Suiter’s head when the fatal shot was fired. Nobody else’s DNA was found on his weapon. Blood spatter was found inside the right-handed detective’s right shirt cuff, indicating his hand and arm were in a high position when the shot was fired.

They also say the autopsy revealed no defensive wounds to support the police narrative that he had struggled with an assailant. Suiter’s left hand was still clutching his police radio.

“The community should not fear that a ‘cop killer’ is on the loose,” the report states.

During a Wednesday news conference, board chief James “Chips” Stewart of CNA, a nonprofit research firm based in Arlington, Virginia, said their report offers a “compelling” detailing of evidence, but the “next steps in this are going to be up to the medical examiner and the police department.”

Acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said any reclassification of Suiter’s death is up to the medical examiner. A spokesman for the medical examiner has not responded to the board’s conclusions.