Bennett Place in West Baltimore will forever be ingrained in many peoples’ memories because of the blazoned shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter on a cool clear fall afternoon in 2017.
The aftermath of Suiter’s death was felt immediately with a suspension of Habeas Corpus for the entire Harlem Park neighborhood that has yet to be addressed. And also long term as the shadows of suspicion hang darkly over a department desperate to shine itself in a new light.
Outside of the city, what’s incredulous is how BPD easily discounted that Suiter was shot the evening before he was supposed to show up as a federal witness to snitch on a complicated network of dirty cops.
The closer you get to the city, the debate breaks along racial lines and consequently also those who generally have a high opinion of the agency. They are the ones who grapple with whether or not Suiter committed suicide because he was fearful of the “snitch label” that accompanied testifying or if he himself was dirty.
People seriously entertain that Suiter took a partner with him to Bennett Place to kill himself, but stage it as a homicide, so his family could reap the monetary benefits.
BPD apologists are quick to point out that if the feds believed it was a hit by dirty cops, they would have taken over the case when BPD asked.
Then there are black people and others who are suspicious of LE and more broadly the criminal justice system in general. Sean Suiter’s widow and children have not been shy pointing the finger directly at BPD (calling it an “inside job“) for covering up and in some ways being responsible for his death. While there hasn’t been a murder on Bennett Place since Sean Suiter’s, there has been plenty of violent murders prior.
ScreenGrab Baltimore Sun May 2019
Historically Bennett Place has suffered from bad press since the 1960s when redlining and later public housing would make the one block stretch a tinder box of discontent. Even today soon as the heat from the national attention from Suiter’s death dissipated, the department for sure and consequently local media seem content to let it fade from memory.
What follows is a timeline of connected activity spurred by politics, hubris, neglect, bias, intimidation and fear. At the center of it all is the Baltimore City Police department (BPD, an illegitimate agency that ought to be disbanded.
Experimenting with a Police State. Baltimore police under PC Anthony Batts erected metal gates restricting entry and exit to the 900 block of Bennett Place in response to two recent fatal shootings. A mobile unit was stationed nearby staffed by a dedicated officer. This was presented in news as normal reaction.
The victims were Maurice Taylor, 37 and Joshua Billingsley, 26. Neither death was reported to be gang related. The corner store, UAC Food Mart, was equipped with 20 video cameras. Store owner Chris Akpala behind bullet proof glass was known to post on his walls “wanted” pictures captured from his cameras of known troublemakers in the neighborhood, according to Baltimore Sun.
Chaos Ushers In the Feds. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired PC Batts and promoted Kevin Davis in the aftermath of the demonstrations that followed the death of Freddie Gray who lived in the Harlem Park vicinity.
Property damage was minimal save the cable news stations’ looping on a burned CVS store in Penn North. But the DEA said 27 pharmacies ( a staggering one third of ALL pharmacies located in the city) were looted totaling 315,000 doses – nearly half of which were schedule II drugs like opioids, the Sun reported. It was later discovered that a dirty BPD sold looted drugs to return back to the streets
BPD imposed a work slowdown in West Baltimore, in protest to the uprising and the political climate that resulted in six officers being charged with Gray’s homicide.
(Later, the officers’ attorneys challenged the ME’s finding of homicide, preferring instead to to call it an accident resulting from Gray intentionally thrashing himself inside the transport van). This theory has been debunked in a popular Undisclosed podcast.
Nonetheless, signs of life sprung up in Harlem Park in wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray after the uprising.
At the request of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, on the heels of the unrest, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began its yearlong investigation into BPD’s patterns and practices regarding claims of civil rights abuses.
Feds Nab Dirty BPD on a Wiretap. Gun violence and drug overdoes spiked to record numbers. Fentanyl deaths were up 86% in Maryland. Baltimore States Attorney dropped all charges on all officers after judge acquitted Lt. Brian Rice of involuntary manslaughter charges. BPD’s work slowdown continued fatally impacting West Baltimore.
In the meantime, feds were listening in on a wiretap and caught a BPD officer discussing using a personal GPS device to make sure a suspected drug dealer wasn’t in his home in order to assist a rival drug dealer in a burglary. A woman, in bed at the time of the break in,was robbed by a masked BPD officer at gunpoint.
While building the drug case, feds stumbled upon members of a specialized BPD unit called the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) committing and covering up robberies, drug deals and overtime fraud.
Also, the DOJ issued its findings in a scathing report outlined a pattern of constitutional violations which would lead to the city consenting to reform itself under court supervision.
Sunday December 4, 2016
The Triple Murder That Brought Suiter to Bennett Place. Residents in 900 block of Bennett Place called 911 about 3 am to report sounds of gunfire. Baltimore Police responded and left.
Though concerned all morning, residents of 900 block of Bennett Place waited to call Baltimore Fire Department and someone requested a welfare check. Fire officials found a body and called BPD.
Police located three deceased black males in a boarded up house at 5:45 pm. Sean Suiter, reportedly the detective assigned to the case, returned to the scene multiple times, the final time was nearly a full year later on the day he was killed.
Monday December 5, 2016
BPD labeled the murder victims as “targeted” (instead of random) and proclaimed them to be Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) gang members (an oft used tactic). Once labeled gang related, the triple murder became less palatable to suburban paid subscribers. The methods LE use to link people to gangs is controversial.
Saturday December 10, 2016
Police publicly identify the victims as Antonio Davis, 23; Howard Banks ,45 and Thomas Carter, 42. Police’s public outreach to solve this murder was minimal based on the messaging delivered by BPD spokesperson T. J. Smith.
2017 Sean Suiter’s world collides with the fate of GTTF
Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. The new administration under the leadership of DOJ Secretary Jeff Sessions produced a consent decree to the Baltimore City and the Police Department that mandated sweeping and costly reforms.
Catherine Pugh was also inaugurated as the city’s next mayor. Rawlings-Blake did not seek re-election.
March 1, 2017
Seven Baltimore Police officers, linked to the specialized unit (GTTF), were arrested as feds announced a sordid criminal conspiracy indictment involving crimes that went back at least a decade and some capers as recent as mere days before their actual arrest.
Part II : Accusation Sean Suiter unknowingly planted evidence with GTTF and sent two innocent men to prison; BPD’s coordinated a suppression of liberty and freedoms with aid of a complicit media in the week-long lockdown of Harlem Park
Part III: Whispers of suicide in BPD’s bought and paid for panel of independent experts reviewing the agency’s investigation of Suiter’s death and the unraveling of the IRB report