A recent HBO documentary entitled The Slow Hustle has brought renewed attention to the mysterious death of Baltimore homicide detective Sean Suiter in 2017. Police initially claimed Suiter was the victim of a lone assailant after his body was found in a West Baltimore alley with a gunshot wound to the head. But as details began to emerge regarding Suiter’s involvement with some of Baltimore’s most corrupt cops, the case took a turn that raised serious questions about what actually happened and if his death was part of a broader cover-up.
Shortly after Suiter died, Police Accountability Report hosts Taya Graham and Stephen Janis produced a podcast series that looked behind the scenes and examined how Suiter’s death told a more complex story about police corruption in Baltimore. In Part IV of this podcast series, Graham and Janis return to the case five years after Suiter’s death with Baltimore veteran reporter Jayne Miller to review a previously unreleased investigation conducted by the Maryland State Police.
Jayne Miller was a reporter with local Baltimore tv station WBAL-TV for over 40 years.
Studio/Post-Production: Stephen Janis
Stephen Janis: Anyone who watches crime dramas could reasonably conclude that when someone is murdered, barring bizarre and extenuating circumstances, the case is solved. That is, through high tech forensics, moral resolve, or simply the near-mythic competence of American law enforcement, killers are ultimately sent to jail. But as an investigative reporter who has worked in one of the most violent cities in the country for nearly 15 years, I can tell you this is not true.
Taya Graham: And that is the point of this podcast, because unsolved killings represent more than just statistics. It’s a psychic toll of stories untold that infects an entire community, the final violent moments of a victim’s life that remain shrouded in mystery.
Stephen Janis: I’m Stephen Janis.
Taya Graham: I’m Taya Graham.
Stephen Janis: And we are investigative reporters who live in Baltimore City.
Taya Graham: Welcome to The Land of the Unsolved.
Welcome back to The Land of the Unsolved. I’m your host, Taya Graham. And today, we will be reviewing a newly obtained report on one of the first cases we explored on this podcast: the mysterious death of Baltimore homicide detective Sean Suiter. Suiter, a veteran city cop, was investigating a homicide in the city’s Harlem Park neighborhood when shots rang out. His partner found him lying on the ground, gravely injured from a gunshot wound to the head. Shortly after he was shot, then-police commissioner Kevin Davis said Suiter was the victim of a lone Black male wearing a dark jacket with a white stripe. The department locked down the neighborhood for six days, outraging residents, but soon the narrative that Suiter was the victim of foul play started to fall apart.
A week after the shooting, Davis revealed Suiter was set to testify before a federal grand jury just one day after he died. Details emerged that Suiter was involved in a 2010 case where drugs were planted on a man who had been trying to evade Suiter, along with the ringleader of the notorious Gun Trace Task Force, Wayne Jenkins. The Gun Trace Task Force was a specialized unit of crooked cops who were convicted of robbing residents, dealing drugs, and stealing overtime. But that connection between Suiter and this corrupt unit led to doubts about what really happened on an abandoned lot in West Baltimore.
And today we have new information which may shed light on that question. Through a public information request, we have obtained a report from a separate probe into Suiter’s death conducted by the Maryland State Police. This overview has never before been made public, so I will be reading excerpts from the findings and discussing them with my co-hosts, Jayne Miller and Stephen Janis.
Thank you both so much for joining me. So first, Jayne, can you give me a backstory on how you obtained this document, why you asked for it, and why this case still is so controversial?
Jayne Miller: Well, let’s start with the last part of that first. Well, it’s controversial because it’s this heated debate. Was it homicide or was it suicide? And here we are in November of 2022, so now we’re five years later. Incident occurred on November 15, 2017, now we’re into 2022, and we still have not resolved, once and for all, really, this question. I mean, there was an independent review board investigation of the case, they concluded it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The coroner’s ruling indicated homicide. It was definitely a homicide investigation.
We decided, five years later, well, let’s see where we are on this case. So I filed a public information request with the Baltimore Police Department, State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Maryland State Police. And the reason I filed with the Maryland State Police is because in 2019, the Maryland State Police agency was asked by Police Commissioner Michael Harrison to review the case, to review the investigation, to review the file, to see if there was any other… What conclusion they would have, if there were things that should have been done that weren’t done, et cetera, to really review the investigation. And they issued a report to the Baltimore Police Department that has never been made public. And so we received it in response to that request.
Taya Graham: Jayne, something I think that’s really important that was revealed in this is a revised timeline. And first I’d like to read you a little excerpt from it, and then I’d like you to respond. This timeline at best leaves eight seconds for Detective Suiter to be engaged in a life and death struggle, be overpowered, lose control of his weapon, have the gun be pressed to his head and discharged, the gun then be placed beneath his body, the assailant disappear from the scene without being seen by Detective Bomenka, and then the assailant leave no physical evidence from the struggle. Maryland State police investigators were in agreement that those events could not occur in eight seconds and that the actual time that Detective Suiter was out of Detective Bomenka’s sight was significantly less than the eight seconds captured by the 910 Bennett Place video. So Jayne, you hear this revised timeline and I think it reveals some new information here. What’s your reaction to it?
Jayne Miller: Well, the independent review board talked about this very short timeframe, 8, 9, 10 seconds. But this is a very specific reference and analysis. I would really call it an analysis. And let me tell you what they’re talking about. So 910 Bennett Place is a house at the other end of the street, which had… There was video from that. And actually, there were some still photos of it that were made public during the independent review board investigation. So they’re using that video, and then they’re using the video of Bomenka and Bomenka’s account, and he makes a phone call. So they have a timeframe in there, a very limited timeframe. And so this is an analysis of that information. And if you think in the time it takes me to speak eight seconds, or anybody to speak eight seconds, there is a lot that has to go on in eight seconds.
That’s what they’re saying, is that there’s an awful lot that has to go on in eight seconds for this to be something other than a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The significance of it is that this is yet another group of investigators that has looked at the evidence in this case and looked at the… There’s some additional information they looked at, too, that had not been yet made public, and they’re coming up with the same conclusion. So now we’ve got an independent review board that looked at the case and they come up with a conclusion of self-inflicted. Now we’ve got another law enforcement agency with investigators, homicide investigators looking at it and they come up with a similar conclusion.
So that’s the dilemma that we’re in, in this situation involving this particular case. This is obviously a high profile case. It’s been highly politicized in many ways. Here we are five years later with really no difference. There’s been no movement in this case. This report from the State Police makes, as of 2019 at any rate, makes this very clear, that they had never identified a plausible suspect.
Taya Graham: Before I go any deeper into this incredible report, I have to ask you. What you said kind of begs the question. If this was ruled a homicide but the independent review board said that it was a suicide, the Maryland State police analysis has found it a suicide… So where does it stand? If this is an open investigation, where do we go from here?
Jayne Miller: That’s a very good question, Taya. That is the question. So when we filed the request, the response we got to the request to the Baltimore Police Department and to the State’s Attorney’s Office was that it’s an open and active investigation. Well, sure. We have a coroner’s ruling that remains homicide. Actually, it was when the State Police report was returned to the Baltimore Police Department, if you recall, Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department had indicated he really wanted to close the case.
But then there was pressure. I believe there was a prosecutor at the time that was trying to run out a lead, said, no, no, there’s still leads to be run out. There was a lot of pressure from the family not to close the case with these lingering questions. So the case remained open and then the commissioner made a statement that it does remain open. It is a good question. What do you do with it? Where do we go with a case like this that has this very divided opinion on what happened? And with all of the information in front of us, it doesn’t revolve the question.
Taya Graham: So it seems to me that in this analysis we’re getting information that I haven’t noticed was reported in the media previously, and that is some of the specifics surrounding Suiter’s death. The position of the gun, where the bullet was found, I believe, this report says that the bullet was found in the ground and that the gunshot residue on the hand suggests that Suiter may have shot himself on the right side, had fallen down to his left side, and that two shots were fired from his gun earlier, and that there was no evidence of a second gun present. What are some of the details that you found around Suiter’s death that were surprising to you here or that you hadn’t seen reported before?
Jayne Miller: I think the one thing in this summary of the investigation that is done by the State Police is that they are saying that he was probably already on the ground when the gun was fired. And the independent review board investigation found that the bullet was found in the ground, like buried several inches into the ground. So a gunshot went in the right side of his head. They are surmising, in their review of the case, that he was laying on his left side when the gun was fired.
Taya Graham: So Jayne, thank you so much for that clarification. Stephen, I want you to jump in here. You’ve taken a look at this analysis. What stands out to you?
Stephen Janis: We were all talking about this before was – And Jayne can probably elaborate on this, but besides the fact that they recounted some of the evidence about his contact with members of the Gun Trace Task Force via texts, which were later erased in his phone. And the fact that Jayne and I were talking about before, that his phone was actually in his desk when he was shot. But also, Jayne, and I don’t know what you think about this, but the life insurance which is mentioned, just prior… Well, it’s not clear when the life insurance was purchased, but there is a very cryptic reference to life insurance which was partially blacked out. Jayne, what does that say to you, that they actually thought it was worthwhile to mention the life insurance? Because life insurance can sometimes be indicative of other plans or other things occurring behind the scenes in a murder investigation. What does that mean to you?
Jayne Miller: Well, this report is the first confirmation of a life insurance policy that had been purchased and paid out. There’s a paragraph that has redactions in it, in the report that says that examination of Detective Suiter’s financials revealed the existence. The policy was paid out on December 15, 2017. That is one month after his death. And it goes on to say, “While the specific clauses issue date changes made to the policy, any other relevant information regarding the life insurance policy is currently not known.” And this is coming from the report. “It is understood that most life insurance policies have clauses to prevent payment for deaths resulting from suicide.”
What is the significance of this? The significance is just what the paragraph says, but also it is the first time that there’s been this confirmation that there was a life insurance policy in place at the time of his death. The city, in 2020, made a $900,000 worker’s comp payment to his estate. So this would’ve been in addition to that and also preceded it. Taya, I think you made the point when we were talking about this, that this was paid out before, well before the independent review board investigation, which obviously had the conclusion of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Stephen Janis: There’s one thing I want to ask you, Jayne, just from your experience in investigating these kinds of things, and I’ll turn the mic over to Taya, was that how could the State Police not have access to the actual details of the life insurance policy? I mean, wouldn’t they be able to issue a subpoena and get it? I mean, I think that should have been clearer, but they seem to make it… I don’t know what your interpretation of the language is, but it seems to me that they’re saying, we couldn’t get all the information about his life insurance policy. And that strikes me as kind of odd.
Jayne Miller: That’s a good question. I don’t know, because really what they were tasked with doing was to really review the investigation.
Stephen Janis: So technically, maybe they weren’t issuing their own subpoenas and conducting it as if they were the primary investigators is what you’re saying? Possibly surmising from that.
Jayne Miller: That is correct. I mean, they, in their report, do disclose information that had not been disclosed before.
Stephen Janis: Absolutely.
Jayne Miller: This being one of them. But their task was to look at the investigation that had already been conducted and to summarize their findings, do their own analysis of the evidence in the case, and to reach their own conclusions, which they did.
Stephen Janis: And there were some interesting numbers in there about that inventory they did, right? About terms of… Search warrants.
Taya Graham: Something Stephen alluded to was the number of investigations and interviews and tips that the Baltimore Police Department explored when they were doing the homicide investigation. So the review shows us that the BPT investigators conducted 123 interviews, they followed up on 54 tips, and they executed 12 search and seizure warrants with no credible suspect ever being identified.
So essentially that’s 123 interviews. Imagine being taken down to a police station, put into an interrogation room, and asked if you had anything to do with the murder of a police officer. These search and seizure warrants, of course, would be incredibly disruptive to someone’s life. And then on top of that, Harlem Park was cordoned off for six days, and essentially the Constitution was suspended for those residents. So reading this disruption that was caused in our community, how do you respond to that? How do you respond to finding out that essentially they shook the community to try to find answers, and they still didn’t get any?
Jayne Miller: You raise a really good point about… Yes, search warrants, execution of search warrants is very disruptive. Being hauled in for interviews about the death of a police officer is very disruptive. Tips! What were the tips?
Stephen Janis: That’s a great question.
Jayne Miller: What were the tips? 50? Was it 54 tips? What were they and where did they come from? Who was providing some information that probably resulted in interviews and search warrants, et cetera. Those kinds of details do raise… You kind of pile on the questions. There have been a lot of questions raised about the investigation of this case, keeping the crime scene secure, or keeping the scene of the shooting secure. All of that was raised before, and now we have these numbers attached to what was done in the investigation, it does raise questions about the disruption that this caused and who were the people that were so affected by it.
Stephen Janis: Well, Jayne, just so people remember, because you were covering this pretty extensively, for the first six or seven days before you started asking questions about Suiter’s pending testimony before a federal grand jury, the police department was really putting out the idea that this was a murder by someone from the community, and they were going pretty heavy leaning in on that, which is kind of unusual for commanders or police. Most homicide detectives will say don’t say anything until you know, but they were leading really hard, right? From your recollection –
Jayne Miller: Oh, absolutely.
Stephen Janis: Of the fact.
Jayne Miller: Absolutely.
Stephen Janis: Can you talk about that a little bit?
Jayne Miller: Well, and the independent review board investigation really found fault with this, is the public information, the communications that was coming from the police department was what they described, really, as misleading. As we look back on it now, it was clear, and if you talk to some of the detectives that were involved at that time, they knew it was clear that there were questions about whether this was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But clearly, the message that was coming from the police commissioner and the spokespeople for the police department was this was homicide. They kept talking about this mysterious man with a black jacket. I know I interviewed people in West Baltimore, young Black men in West Baltimore, they’re getting pulled up because of that description that circulated. And to this day, we don’t know where that description came from. To this day.
Stephen Janis: Actually, I asked the current commissioner, Darryl De Sousa, at a press conference that question specifically. I said, where did it come from? Because I wrote a story about this for the AFRO, and he had no answer. He said he’d get back to me and I’m still waiting. So no, they could not or never were able to identify, even if it came from Bomenka, they weren’t sure. No one was ever able to answer that question, where that story came from, why it was circulated. I know Davis was the one who said it, but no one could tell me where Davis actually got that.
Taya Graham: Something that’s been brought up in this report that I think about often is that Detective Suiter’s role with the GTTF. In this report here, it says, “In January of 2018, an ATF agent identified only as JW met with Sergeant Lloyd of the BPD Homicide. The agent informed Sergeant Lloyd that he had pertinent information regarding the federal Broken Boundaries investigation. The ATF agent indicated that the FBI had not accurately informed the BPD regarding the extent of Detective Suiter’s criminal activity uncovered during their investigation. The ATF agent specifically referenced Detective Suiter’s involvement in a 2010 incident during which Detective Suiter recovered drugs from a vehicle that were illegally planted by Sergeant Jenkins.
“The incident followed a vehicle pursuit which resulted in a fatal accident. The agent indicated that federal investigators knew that Detective Suiter was aware that the drugs had been planted in the vehicle when he recovered them and criminally charged the operator of the vehicle. The conviction was later overturned and Sergeant Jenkins was indicted for a second time following Detective Suiter’s death for crimes relating to this incident.”
So Stephen, how do you respond to this information and documentation of Suiter’s wrongdoings?
Stephen Janis: Well, I don’t know how Jayne feels about this, but what’s stunning to me is this is almost a year after the initial investigation. So the FBI is supposedly relaying everything to then-commissioner Kevin Davis. And then a year later, an ATF agent wanders into homicide and says, hey, you guys have not been properly or correctly informed about detective Suiter’s criminality. I’m just quoting the report. I’m not making any suggestions about his criminality. But to me, it’s stunning that another branch of federal law enforcement walks in and says, you guys don’t really know what’s going on here. The FBI has been… I mean, Jayne, does it seem like he’s saying the FBI’s been misleading or just –
Jayne Miller: I thought actually, if I recall correctly, that was a concern raised during the GTTF case, during the Suiter case, et cetera, is that there wasn’t a lot of sharing of information going on.
Stephen Janis: Which is just astounding to me, given that one of the main problems the community has said about Suiter and about the whole GTTF is that the investigation stopped at a certain level and never went up. And why wasn’t anyone held accountable, and how can we trust this department? And that’s why there’s been so much distrust of the conclusions about Suiter. So now we know that in 2018, another branch of the federal law enforcement walks in, wanders into homicide and says, hey guys, BTW, the FBI’s not been telling you the truth. Or, not not telling you the truth, but not giving you the full extent… Let’s put it in the language that they use: The full extent of Suiter’s criminality. I mean, Jayne, what do you think?
Jayne Miller: Well, the reason this is significant is because the theory of suicide very much involves his testimony and his role in the GTTF case. The Maryland State Police report mentions that Suiter had not told his family about his pending grand jury testimony. So clearly there were things really weighing on Detective Suiter at this particular time because of that grand jury testimony.
Stephen Janis: And he didn’t know what they did or did not know about what he had done.
Jayne Miller: And that, I think, is what is the important point, is he didn’t know what they knew –
Stephen Janis: Exactly.
Jayne Miller: And what that part of this newly disclosed report tells you reinforces that. He didn’t know what they knew.
Stephen Janis: And the point being that if he went in front of a grand jury and they knew he’d done something and he lies about it, then he’s in big trouble, because they could just charge him with perjury.
Jayne Miller: Correct.
Stephen Janis: Or lying. But I think what I find astounding, though, is that there is obviously a part of the federal law enforcement complex or whatever that was watching this and yet not saying anything, or not communicating. I find that to be, in a case this explosive, I find that to be very strange, and I think something that certainly justifies the community’s lack of trust in some of the conclusions. Of course, it has nothing to do with the suicide, just the way the GTTF case went down and the idea amongst a lot of people that there were higher-ups who might have been involved or at least had knowledge of it. So that just shows you that law enforcement is not always transparent with each other, obviously.
Jayne Miller: And that was definitely, I think, a concern that I heard during that time. And this does get to the whole issue of transparency and trust, and the trust that you’re getting the straight story from a police department. The relationship between the feds and the police department during the Suiter case was clearly strained, I would call it.
Stephen Janis: Right. Yes.
Jayne Miller: You have Kevin Davis ask for the FBI to look at the case –
Stephen Janis: And they say no.
Jayne Miller: They said no. Right.
Stephen Janis: And then didn’t they intimate that they had told Davis the day after the shooting that he was in front of a grand jury and then Davis waited six or seven days and there was some controversy about that?
Jayne Miller: Yes.
Stephen Janis: So there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on behind the scenes in this particular case. But I just think that that part of the report really struck me because, as we talked about, and we’re not making any assumptions here, but Suiter was given a hero’s funeral. The Baltimore Police Department played up the funeral, and I remember TJ Smith, the spokesperson, tweeting out the procession up 83. And there was a lot of hand wringing about how the community had murdered Suiter and that this is an example of the community turning on the police department.
And I think seeing these revelations come out later simply makes me question how police communicate with the community on things like this and why weren’t more cautious about making any grandiose statements. But more importantly, why no one’s really been held accountable for making those statements, which I think we’re misleading at best, but also indicting the entire Harlem Park community and the people who live there. Am I getting this wrong?
Jayne Miller: No, that was obviously very much a part of the controversy about this case was the reaction to it, from locking down the neighborhood for the time that it was locked down. 123 interviews, 12 search warrants, and no credible suspect. If 54 tips, who were they? There’s never been an accounting of this, I might add. This is the first time we’ve seen numbers attached to this kind of thing in this investigation, but we’ve never really had a full accounting of what went on in that first week of the investigation as it pertained to people in the community.
Taya Graham: So Jayne, there’s this really interesting reference to a meeting. Let me read this to you. “Detective Suiter was scheduled to attend a meeting with the US attorneys prosecuting the corrupt BPD officers involved in the Broken Boundaries federal investigation on November 16, 2017 at 1100 hours. Following the meeting, Detective Suiter was under subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury at 1300 hours.” So this meeting, Jayne, how do you react to that?
Jayne Miller: Well, that’s when he was going to meet with the federal prosecutors to go over his testimony. And that next line in that paragraph is “Detective Suiter had not informed his coworkers or his family of the November 16, 2017 meeting or subsequent grand jury testimony,” which certainly is an interesting piece of information. And, again, indicates, would get to his state of mind and the very deep concern he had about what he was about to have to do.
Stephen Janis: Well, also, so they were going to meet with him first and then he was going to testify, which says that either he was not in a hostile position with the government. That’s what’s confusing about this and why I thought it was worth bringing up, because he’s going to meet with them and then they’re going to subpoena him, or he’s going to be under subpoena. That sounds very interesting to me. Maybe they were going to say, do you want to cooperate or we’re going to indict you? That has all sorts of implications, which I think are interesting and could suggest a multitude of things that might have happened to him at that point. But obviously, as you point out, Jayne, the bottom line is it was a jackpot for him, really.
Jayne Miller: Well, that’s what I mean. He clearly was in some very difficult circumstances.
Taya Graham: We see here in this report that Detective Suiter’s phone had deleted contacts, calls, and text logs, which revealed text messages between him and other officers of the Gun Trace Task Force who were later indicted: Officer Gondo and Officer Ward. And these were all deleted prior to their arrest. Now these officers, Gondo and Ward, ultimately entered guilty pleas, and they offered testimony in the trials of Officer Hersl and Officer Taylor, who were also convicted by a federal jury. One thing that came out during the Hersl and Taylor trial is that Gondo testified that he began stealing while assigned to the VCID unit.
He testified that his squad consisted of Suiter, Ward, Ivory, and Edwards. And he testified that the detectives would routinely steal money and split it amongst themselves. And I can definitely see how this behavior would put one in a state of mind of fear for their career, fear of this coming out to the public, fear of how this would impact their family.
So Jayne, you know a lot about this VCID unit that I have been referencing. Can you talk a little bit about what they are and what they do and the type of impact that they’ve had on our community?
Jayne Miller: Well, I think all you need to know about VCID is that in the Department of Justice report on the Baltimore Police Department and its discriminatory practices, et cetera that was issued in 2016, VCID is frequently featured. And really, the behavior of that unit was frequently cited as it’s a very aggressive, abusive unit that was mostly focused on guns and drugs. It’s kind of morphed. The GTTF was very much patterned after that very aggressive policing. Jump out boys, as they call themselves.
And what’s interesting here is that what Gondo testified to about the stealing, this was not the 2010 case of planting drugs. This was an additional allegation involving Suiter’s activities as a police officer. So again, it just gets to the point of he would not have known what they were going to talk to him about until he went to that meeting and until he was subpoenaed, et cetera. So there was no way for him, I think, to know at that point on November 15, prior to the November 16 meeting, there was probably no way for him to know what was going to be talked about.
Stephen Janis: But I wonder if he was communicating with people from VCID, if they were exchanging information about what they were hearing about the investigation or what they were thinking they might encounter, because his testimony was going to come after Gondo had already been… Well, wait. At that point… I’m trying to think. Yeah, Gondo had actually been… They had all been charged in March of 2017.
Jayne Miller: Correct. And they had testified in other cases. They obviously testified about this in 2018, but this was in 2017.
Stephen Janis: Correct. So he might not have known exactly what they knew about him, but he did know that people he used to run around with were actually sitting in a jail cell.
Jayne Miller: Correct.
Stephen Janis: So probably he had some sense of this was not going to… Well, we can’t say it wasn’t going to go well for him, but certainly it was something of tremendous concern about… And just a couple thoughts about VCID, because I covered them a lot. And they were an aggressive police unit that basically had the power to go anywhere in the city. Now usually, the city’s divided up into police districts. And if you have a unit going into a district you’re supposed to notify the commander. Well, these guys operated as a citywide unit that could go wherever there was violence or whatever. And pretty much… I mean, I covered some arrests where they would just pull people out and do whatever they wanted with them.
And they were extremely… To say they were aggressive is an understatement. I once interviewed a guy who wanted to join VCID. He was a former Marine. He said that’s where the action is. What he meant was that it was very aggressive military-style tactics. And to a certain extent, as you can see the genesis of probably the idea of the GTTF, along with not just the aggressive tactics but the let’s help ourselves to the drug bounty as well. So it’s a pretty interesting intersection of all these people, learning some really bad policing skills, I guess you could say.
Taya Graham: So let me just read you an excerpt from the summary in this report. “Based on our review of the investigative materials provided, the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit investigators believe that the gunshot wound sustained by Detective Sean Suiter on November 15, 2017 was self-inflicted. Investigators believe that the first two gunshots discharged from Detective Suiter’s weapon were fired in an attempt to create an illusion of confrontation to conceal the suicide.”
So once you hear that review summary, I’m very curious as to if this has altered the way you look at the case or has it just confirmed what you knew all along?
Jayne Miller: Well, one thing it confirms is what the internal… When the independent review board, which also found, concluded that it was self-inflicted. So there’s nothing that Maryland State Police investigators looked at that caused them to think differently. We are obviously, none of us is privy to everything that’s in the investigative file of the Baltimore Police Department about this case. I mean, obviously, we were denied a request to see that. So we are relying on information that was gathered mostly by the independent review board in 2018, because they had body-worn camera video. They had forensic test information. And so we’re relying on the conclusions that are drawn by these other entities that investigated the case.
But the bottom line is we are now five years away from Sean Suiter’s death, and we still have this very divided… I don’t want to call it a conclusion, because there is no conclusion, but very divided view about whether this was a homicide or a suicide. And we’ve had the police commissioner at the time who has moved on, we’ve had different mayors. We’re going to have a new state’s attorney in this. So a lot of things have changed, but the status of this case and the posture of this case hasn’t.
Stephen Janis: Jayne, one thing that I think when I read this is that, in a way, Suiter was a missing connection between what many people thought might have been a Gun Trace Task Force case. It could have been quite a bit larger. I feel like the unexplored aspects of his case are why the community doesn’t trust the conclusion that he committed suicide, simply because he could have been a link between the past and the present in the Gun Trace Task Force, and perhaps a broader look at the way Baltimore Police function and the way they do not hold their own officers accountable. Or, if there were people who really knew and encouraged these kinds of tactics and should have been held accountable. How do you feel about that idea? Because I just look at him and say, wow, if he had testified or they had done a more thorough investigation of him, they might have been able to connect some more dots. Or maybe there was something purposeful there.
Jayne Miller: This is the bottom line of this whole… That’s right. We don’t know what Sean Suiter knew. We don’t know what he may have said, what he may have testified to. We don’t know. And you are absolutely right that it could have taken this investigation to a whole new level. It could have taken this investigation to additional directions, but we don’t know what he knew.
Stephen Janis: And therein lies why many people I spoke to while I was reporting on this thought that he was killed because they feel like, okay, here’s a witness and he ends up dead. How convenient is that? Now we looked at the evidence and the evidence seems very strong that there’s no suspect, whatever. I’m not suggesting that. I’m only saying I think that’s why people have a lack of trust in the findings, not that it’s justified by the evidence, but it is somewhat, I think, rationalized by the fact that he could have been a critical missing witness in what went down with this horrible scandal.
Taya Graham: Stephen, that’s an excellent point, that the community understandably still has questions. Not only were many people’s lives ripped apart and disrupted during the investigation for the killer of Sean Suiter, but, of course, the medical examiner’s office has still ruled it a homicide. And then he died right before he was going to testify, and who knows what he could have said, how many other officers he might have exposed to further investigation. So I think it’s very understandable that the community has trust issues with the Baltimore Police Department for this reason, as well as a few others.
So I just want to thank both you and Jayne for joining me during this podcast. And thank you so much for getting this important review and summary from the Maryland State Police department. We really appreciate it and we appreciate your analysis on it. Thank you, Jayne, and thank you, Stephen.
And thank you for joining us for The Land of the Unsolved and our latest update on the mysterious and controversial death of Sean Suiter. I’d like to thank my co-hosts, Stephen Janis and Jayne Miller, for joining me today.
And if you’d like to support our podcast, consider buying one of our books on Amazon on crime and policing. Why Do We Kill? The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore and You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths about Policing in Baltimore and Beyond. And remember, if you have a case you want us to investigate, please send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. My name is Taya Graham, and I want to thank you for joining us for another episode of The Land of the Unsolved.