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  • Writer's pictureJustine Barron

The Suiter Files: Hello.

Sean Suiter's funeral, two days before the suicide theory started taking hold in media.

For reference: Investigative series on Suiter's death, written over the last year, as information unfolded.

Hello! It has been exactly one year since Detective Sean Suiter was killed. This website is about his case but also broader missives on related subjects, shared in as direct and sometimes personal a manner as crime, death, and corruption will allow. I'm a freelance writer investigating the Baltimore Police Department.

By way of brief background on November 15, 2017, Baltimore Homicide Detective Sean Suiter was shot in the head a day before his grand jury testimony in a federal case against Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, who won both a bronze star and the award for Baltimore's most successful monster-sociopath.

For those of us that had been watching the Baltimore Police Department closely, the story of Suiter's death unfolded in a way that was familiar: It made no sense, and it kept making less sense. The revelation that he was scheduled to go before a federal grand jury the next day to talk about dirty cops? At most, we were told, Suiter was so scared that he went back in time a couple of months to plan out his suicide and look up funeral homes. At least, we were told, it was just a coincidence.

If you ask some BPD folks, the reporters at WBAL news, and the handful of civilians who trust them, they will tell you that Suiter's death has been determined to be a suicide. It was not determined so by the Medical Examiner, the homicide investigators, or the FBI. It was determined so this summer by a well-paid panel of policing experts, which initially said out loud that it was not going to re-investigate the case. Then, it went ahead and did just that.

This panel, the Independent Review Board (IRB), was put together by a commissioner who lasted three months before he was indicted by the federal government for "failure to file taxes." He was indicted by the same FBI group investigating BPD corruption, not from the FBI's tax department. Their indictment indicated that they were leaving open the possibility for future corruption-related charges.

A bunch of retiring, retired, and indicted cops weigh in on Suiter in April. Only one may still work for BPD next year.

Despite the IRB's ruling, Suiter's case remains open and officially unsolved. Could it be that the IRB's results were not actually convincing enough to warrant an official suicide conclusion? Or, could it be that leaving a case open delays the public's access to the investigation materials? (Both.)

Leaving Suiter's death a mystery benefits almost everyone. The department doesn't have to answer for all of the ways it mucked up the investigation. The local media gets to traffic in profitable speculation. And Suiter's family gets the second best result to actual closure and peace-of-mind - namely, not a suicide finding.

The IRB released its report in late August. It was a strange document. Even retired cops who believe in the suicide theory messaged me with, "What the fuck is this?" and "I don't blame anyone who doesn't buy it" (direct quotes).

The report offered a theory of suicide that was based in large part on speculation, unreliable narrators, process of elimination, and the flat-out misinterpretation of hard video evidence, released the same day. It offered Fox News-worthy insinuations about Suiter's guilty conscience. It also offered a long rant against former Commissioner Kevin Davis, who coincidentally did not hire or pay the consultants.

Also, the report had a habit of selectively attributing its information, starting on page 1:

The IRB never talked to anyone at Shock Trauma or looked at any hospital reports. This is probably due to HIPAA laws. Still, the report presented this as fact. If it didn't come from Shock Trauma, who told them this?

This might seem trivial, but it's not. The bullet trajectory story is important.

I talked to one Dr. Mike Abernethy, trauma expert, who said that trauma surgeons rarely make determinations about trajectory, leaving that up to the Medical Examiner, unless the police tell them something. He also said that entrance and exit would be hard to confuse, if someone did make that determination. But I dunno. Hospitals can vary. That's just one guy.

What matters more is that second-hand information was presented as fact. This leaves me no choice but to remain skeptical, especially when some of the people that were interviewed by the IRB, mostly BPD higher-ups, have really dark Google search results.

Anyway, I recommend reading the report through with an eye towards how it attributes its sources of information. Trigger warning: It's very aggravating. I do not get the impression that it's because the IRB can't write well. It's actually a quite carefully crafted document. The other thing to look for is confirmation bias, when the report takes a piece of evidence as a sign of suicidality at the exclusion of other obvious possibilities. .

As of today, nothing has emerged to support that a suicide took place. Suicide as a default ruling absent a clear homicide narrative should not be an acceptable practice. The Sean Suiter case is not unique in Baltimore. There are many suspicious, convoluted stories of deaths in BPD custody that matter just as much as Suiter, like Tyree Woodson, Tyrone West, and Freddie Gray. For me, Suiter's death takes BPD culture to another level, and that's why I named this site after him.

I think of season 2 of the Hulu series "Handmaid's Tale." In season 2, the fascist government starts turning on its own good soldiers. It's sort of the end game of authoritarian rule: It doesn't matter if you followed the rules and enforced the code, you can go too. The only thing that matters is the protection of the structures of power and the people overseeing it. (See also: the Saudi government sentencing the soldiers who killed Jamal Khashoggi, on its behalf, to death.) This isn't to say that the department necessarily killed Suiter, but they did kill his reputation and cover-up what really happened.

The story of Sean Suiter is the story of the Baltimore Police Department in its season 2 reign of corruption and terror, in which a soldier and human being is strung up against the brick wall and turned into a fable of alleged sins without evidence, because it provides a convenient answer. I hate to say it, but it also sends a message or two. (I don't otherwise recommend "Handmaid's Tale" season 2. It's about slow torture, and it is slow torture.)

So thanks for reading along. Subscribe for free if you want for updates, some on Sean Suiter and others on related topics.

2 comentarios

Justine Barron
Justine Barron
17 nov 2018

@Rachel James: The IRB report says he was right handed. It says that once Suiter's trajectory was determined to come from the right, they reconsidered possible suicide. All of this is second hand though. They don't cite first-hand sources for this information.

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Rachel James
17 nov 2018

So Suiter was left handed?

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