When you can’t trust the police…

Prologue: In a city where the tally of unsolved murders reach the triple digits each year, it is still surprising when a homicide detective’s murder becomes a cold case in Baltimore City.

The November 2017 broad daylight shooting death of detective Sean Suiter in a residential neighborhood has reached its third anniversary. The one sketchy suspect description was quickly recanted by the one eyewitness (also a detective).

With each passing year, it looks more probable (and not just possible) that Suiter was lured to Bennett Place, trapped in the alley, put down like a dog in the street, and the crime scene (held by police for an abnormally extended time period) was staged to look like a suicide.

A bombshell press conference by Suiter’s grieving family broke through the typical blue wall of silence in May 2019 when they claimed that the 39-year old’s murder was an inside job. This occurred on the heels of the department pledging to investigate itself when it brought in a panel called the “Independent Review Board” (IRB) to review their casefiles and in their 2018 report arrived at a manner of death different that the coroner (suicide versus homicide).

To be clear, the Suiter family believes Baltimore police was involved in the murder of one of their own, and they are not alone.

Cops controlled the narrative and the neighborhood

Controlling the narrative about the possibility of Suiter being shot with his own service weapon that allegedly was found under his body was equally as important as controlling movement in and around the crime scene around the clock for days on end.

A sober look at the case reveals much of what local media outlets have “reported” is merely a regurgitation of Baltimore Police spin. Consider the source: maybe, just maybe, the department could be frantically covering up a murder, making it prudent for professional journalists to take what law enforcement said (and probably more important what they haven’t said) with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Coverage of the Sean Suiter homicide began with widely reported misinformation that he was shot as he knocked on doors following up on a year old triple murder in the west Baltimore community of Harlem Park. The public later learned that he was likely confronted in the alley (and not the lot) and that he was assisting another junior homicide detective (David Bomenka) with his murder case that happened just weeks prior.

Unfounded Accusation #1: Suiter was shot with his own gun.

Truth: That is pure speculation on four crucial fronts:

  1. BPD (poorly) reenacted the “discovery” of the bullet that they said killed him. This happened in front of cameras by members of the homicide unit after the crime scene unit had released the area coming up empty after digging in the exact same spot looking for other missing bullets. NOTE: The “evidence” was too damaged to run ballistics tests to try and determine if Suiter’s gun fired that bullet. All that can be proven is that the bullet dramatically “discovered” at the scene is the same type that is used by BPD. It is not hyperbole to state that Baltimore Police have made an artform out of planting evidence.
Screengrab of a local television station’s cameras that captured BPD “discovery” of the bullet that killed Det. Sean Suiter just after ending the weeklong lockdown “securing the crime scene” ie media blackout – only to have reporters camera’s booted out again.

2. Suiter’s gun has a serial number. The public has have not been shown if the weapon tested has the same serial number as the Glock service weapon that was assigned to him.

3. The public should be comfortable assuming only that the bullet that killed Suiter likely came from one of the thousands of similar weapons issued by the Baltimore Police department.

4. Suiter may not have ever fired a gun that day. His hand were wiped clean by an overzealous (unidentified) hospital employee, police said. While the report spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the blood on his sleeve, no mention was made of whether gunshot residue (GSR) tests were performed on his shirt or his jacket. Also curious is that BPD originally reported that blood was recovered on his suit jacket and was later changed to his sleeve for no apparent reason once the suicide theory took hold. No explanation is provided for the absence of any photographs on either Suiter’s jacket or his shirt before the IRB became involved a whole year after the shooting.

Unfounded Accusation #2 : Suiter fell on his gun.

Truth: No one has come forward saying they saw Suiter fall or can definitively say where his gun was before he was moved into the patrol car:

At best, the detective with Suiter is an unreliable witness (also a tradition at BPD) and at worse he saw who killed the detective, manipulated the crime scene and/or took part in the cover up. Only photos grabbed from body worn cameras (BWC) of responding officers were provided to the press and there have been no statements attributed to any specific individual saying he or she saw the gun under his body.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that BPD planted a gun at the scene, removed it and submitted one into evidence and claimed it to be Suiter’s. Ironically, Suiter was scheduled to testify about how multiple Baltimore police officers conspired to hide an illegal fatal car chase by planting evidence that sent two innocent Black men to prison rather than admit they were merely speeding.

NOTE: BPD was reprimanded by the IRB for the contaminated crime scene and “recovery” of a service weapon from the trunk of a patrol car belonging to an unidentified officer at some unspecified time that was logged into evidence as Suiter’s gun.

Baltimore Police’s “Independent Review Board Report. Page 37
  1. In his official interviews, according to the IRB report, homicide detective David Bomenka changed his version of what he saw: included seeing a. Suiter in the act of falling, b. having just collapsed to the ground and c. having had already fallen. But he was was steadfast that he didn’t see a gun in his hand; he only said that he saw gun smoke near Suiter.
  2. Most surprisingly, we don’t know if Bomenka saw or heard Suiter on his departmental radio. There was a transmission of Suiter sounding like he was in distress just as he was shot, according to officials. That would be a question worth knowing the answer to.
  3. When back up officers arrived once Bomenka (or someone) called 911 (the public has not heard the recording either), the photo from the BWC and presented in the IRB report is out of focus and unclear. The peculiar wording indicates the officers “could see” the gun, not that they did see or even that said that they saw the gun. It’s a crucial distinction.

The newspaper of record in March 2018 reported as fact that Suiter’s gun, “freshly fired” was underneath his body when responding officers arrived. It’s important for responsible journalists to distinguish what police said and attribute their claims to the source as opposed to offering up speculation as factual information to a trusting public that journalists have not independently verified or obtained similar statements from multiple sources on the record.

Out of many, the most absurd claim is IRB’s determination that Suiter’s weapon undisputedly fired the fatal shot as it defies logic. First, they tested the blood on the gun BPD found in the patrol car of an unnamed officer who presented it as the same gun that was “freshly fired” that no one saw under his body. Voila, the blood tested on the gun gift wrapped to them matched Suiter’s DNA. Mind you Suiter was transported in a patrol car to the hospital bleeding from a head wound. Whoever removed the gun from the crime scene had ample opportunity to place blood on a service weapon – either a random service weapon or actually the one that belonged to Suiter.

IRB’s suicide theory would have been a more convincing claim had the IRB report included:

  • the serial numbers of Suiter’s assigned weapon showing they matched the gun tested
  • the gun tested was the exact same one was recovered at the crime scene (instead of a car trunk), but there are no crime scene photographs of where the gun was found making this impossible
  • BWC that clearly captured arriving officer’s discovery of the gun under his body as he was rolled over that may or may not be available
  • crime scene photos of the location of the gun and the bullet that no one thought to take
  • whether or not Suiter’s DNA was found on the “recovered” bullet
  • if bullets and casings didn’t just magically disappear from the scene after Suiter died

Confusingly, IRB depicts in a photo the bullet that was not tested for ballistics, have no DNA on them (presumably), and have zero evidentiary value. What should be pictured is Suiter’s firearm circling where the blood splatter was located that actually tested positive for his DNA. Page 42 of IRB report.

Missing from the report is exact amount of blood splatter reportedly on the gun that IRB tested for DNA recovered and tested from the barrel and gun surface. An assessment should be made about whether Suiter’s blood found on the weapon is consistent with someone adding blood to it, or if it is likely that the blood was from a single shot being fired at close range near someone’s head. The IRB made a similar splatter determination with blood photographed on the sleeve, but did not do so with the “smoking gun.”

The problems with a complicit media

So many questions remain unanswered about the investigation, despite the IRB. Last year, a second review of the case by Maryland State Police (MSP) was conducted, but to date no report was released to the public. Unlike the IRB, MSP did not conduct a press conference leaving media outlets to get the finding from Commissioner Michael Harrison. Without any scrutiny from the public, MSP concluded that Suiter shot himself in the head after firing three or more shots into the air before shooting himself.

Neither panel brought in by Baltimore Police department to “investigate” their investigation reported on the lockdown of Harlem Park and BPD certainly didn’t request that either group look into whether it was possible that anyone manipulated the crime scene as part of a wider cover up.

As long as the case remains open, public access to documents remain shielded. Harrison, the fourth commissioner since the shooting, had called the investigation closed after MSP’s findings, only walk it back once the State’s Attorney’s office countered him by calling it an open and pending matter last year as the second anniversary of Suiter’s death approached.

Even with what little is known, it should be at least clear that beyond statements attributed to David Bomenka, nothing reliable has been presented that 1. Suiter was shot with his own service weapon or 2. that his body fell on a smoking gun. Such reporting is far from fact and closer to fable. What is discernable from the reporting is that members of the media were not able to view BWC, did not hear the 911 call for help, have not spoken with any investigators on the record, or even been given witness statements to read.

In advance of the August 2018 IRB report the Baltimore Sun used unnamed and anonymous sources to float out the idea that Suiter shot himself in the head and then fell on his “freshly fired” gun as “new details”.

More from Baltimore Sun’s story by Justin Fenton from March 2018 just before the announcement that an IRB panel would be reviewing the methods BPD used to investigate the homicide.

Residents in the community heard between four and five gunshots according to news reports. Miraculously, after occupying the neighborhood for a week, the crime scene unit was unable to recover a single bullet, although they did retrieve three casings near where he lay dying in the lot. There’s no definitive proof offered that the recovered casings in any way matched Suiter’s weapon, yet the IRB said without hesitancy that they came from his gun, presumably because they were recovered near his body. The leaps in this reasoning might not be judged as too far fetched- had they found the other missing bullets that went into the air but didn’t come down where they could be easily found even after a week of looking for them.

Regrettably, mainstream media in real time shrugged at the occupation of West Baltimore during this entire process, arguably because of the nature of the crime makes them sympathetic to the dangers of law enforcement and more subtlety because the color of the skin of the people complaining about overreach made their claims less newsworthy. Although in November 2019 the ACLU heard the complaints and filed a lawsuit against BPD which did gain media attention.

To any casual observer, the unprecedented 24/7 lockdown of the neighborhood had nothing to do with looking for a shooter, or finding bullets (since they came up empty on both fronts) but served to manipulate the scene and make sure any concocted story would match witness accounts prompting a social media hashtag #FreeWestBaltimore.

Baltimore Sun Cowers in the Shadows of Fear as Abolishing Police Effort Sees Daylight

BALTIMORE – A defund police movement is kicking up dust across the country and an argument can certainly be made that the Baltimore Sun is feverishly busy sweeping the efforts under the rug.

This indeed is that argument.

What you call a thing matters. Journalists of any consequence know that. Some see an uprising that could lead to a revolt as a pathway to freedom. Others may see a riot that could result in a rebellion as a gateway to regime change – their regime.

defund the police street art
Artist @drew_koritzer posted on Twitter by @OrganizingBlack and supported by @DMVBlackLives, @byp100

A lot depends on one’s views on oppression. Regrettably, in a June 8, 2020 commentary, the Sun’s editorial stance reveals itself again to be on the wrong side of history with Black Baltimore and it is done at a time when it matters the most to all of the city’s citizens.

Baltimore’s deeply rooted racism

Baltimore City has a long history with what some today might call  “both sidesism.” Back in the mid 1800s  when the nation was struggling with how to proceed with demands to abolish slavery, the City’s economic and political leaders instead aligned itself with plantation owners of the south.  However, the Governor assured President Abraham Lincoln of Maryland’s allegiance to the Union’s cause.

Predictably heavily pro Confederate members of the Maryland State Assembly were arrested to thwart an insurrection.  This move merely forced southern sympathizers into hiding.  Is recent as May 2020, pamphlets and recruitment into Ku Klux Klan (KKK) espousing white supremacy are still commonplace in Maryland.

lincoln cropped

If Baltimore’s elite class had its way, there wouldn’t even had been a president Lincoln.  A thwarted plot to assassinate the president-elect as he traveled through the state on his way to his first inauguration is a story of legend.

Fast forward 160 years. Again we have a climbing crescendo of calls for local politicians to see an immoral institution as antiquated.  States are choosing to re-imagine public safety and policing in way that excludes the existence of the Baltimore Police department.

Where the Sun stands

Staying with the devil they know, The Sun has decided that there are indeed good people on both sides of #AbolishPolice efforts.  It returns to surface the old axiom that the “bad apples” within the department are resistant to submersion.

Are the police really that irredeemable, or are there just some bad apples that need to be sorted out? Maybe, maybe not. But at its heart, the defund movement isn’t really about getting rid of police entirely.” – Baltimore Sun Editorial May 8, 2020

 

It may help to think of the editorial board as the restaurant managers who decide on the décor, select the vendors, approve the menu, set work schedules. And then think of the reporters as the cooks in the kitchen. This perhaps helps to place its editorial in perspective.

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Two weeks after the George Floyd video that shocked the consciousness of most Americans went viral, the Sun’s editorial staff gave us a glimpse into whether it was shaping up to be a fine dining or an earnest family style establishment.

What we got was neither. With the Sun, we were forced fed the predictable greasy spoon diner fare commonly served up for the regulars who show up for the paper since segregation was legal and are known by name.

Since May 25th when 46 year old Floyd gasped his last breath under the weight of a knee to the back of his neck by an officer on a Minneapolis city sidewalk – up  until the editorial was published on June 8th, Baltimore had 11 straight days of protests in the street.

Proof corporations are not people

While organizers were busy lobbing tear gas canisters back at police, the owners of the Sun (and the Chicago Tribune) were reinforcing its blockade. Owners of both papers, Tribune Publishing, have called for more policing while reducing the demands to #AbolishPolice to be “ardent police critics, those who see the roots of modern policing in the practice of hunting down escaped slaves,” write the Sun editorial staff.

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In a June 10th editorial, the Chicago Tribune referenced its own Freddie Gray policing nightmare, the shooting death of 17 year old Laquan McDonald in 2014.  After an alleged  years-long cover up Chicago’s entered into its own federal Consent Decree in 2017  dictating ways to reform.

If only the Tribune Co’s editorial staff objectively read its own papers, they would see evidence of systemic racism in its very midst.

Resting on the idea that police are able to reform itself as the magic elixir is extremely unnerving especially to the over-policed communities they cover. Corporate ownership of news outlets has permitted business interests to usurp public accountability and shape a narrative that’s out of sync with the nation’s consciousness.

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A local paper in Minneapolis, MN warned caution against the defund police movement as well. The Star Tribune, owned by local businessman Glen Taylor echoed his city’s business leaders in saying getting rid of crime fighters will not eliminate crime. There’s not enough space in the entire cyber-sphere to adequately respond to that reasoning.  Suffice it to say – if only police were crime fighters, then it would be a discussion worth having.

This national moment of reckoning about police practices is rightly giving new momentum to overdue reform efforts. George Floyd’s death moved Americans to say “enough” and demand change. It should come soon. – Star Tribune Editorial June 10, 2020

Predictably, the Sun is waiting to see if the blue coats or if the grey coats capture the flag of this country’s moral future.  If Black lives are ever to matter in Baltimore, we can’t wait for  editorial staff sit on the sideline to see how another state fares.  “We would like to see how Minneapolis and other cities fare with their approaches,” wrote the Editorial staff.

The editorial team of all three papers are prepared to take a wait and see approach. They rest comfortably while their cooks/reporters and photographers scurry back and forth attempting to make palatable what the public can no longer digest.

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Consent decrees bridge activists and police to a road to nowhere

Be wary of those who grasp desperately onto the promise of police reform because it will create yet another black hole where exorbitant consultant fees and federal funds quickly disappear.

In May of this year, Seattle, WA asked to be removed from the constraints of its 2012 consent decree claiming it to be in full compliance with reform mandates.  The mission accomplished banner seems to be tarnished in wake of the national #disbandPolice movement.

Seattle protesters against police abuses created a law enforcement free “autonomous zone” called either CHAZ or CHOP after commandeering a local precinct building. The federal judge was expected to rule in August on the city’s request to come up from under its consent decree.

The recent events of Seattle show that “police reform” should no longer be on the menu. Nevertheless, the Sun editorial state reveals its stance that “There’s an urgency to addressing police misconduct and criminal justice disparities … but not necessarily to fundamentally changing course [emphasis added].” 

Resort to gaslighting when reason fails

Reform advocates are on one end of the spectrum while those who view defunding as an essential first step towards abolishing police is on another. Anybody who tells you differently is gaslighting you.

Baltimore Sun seems adamant in explaining that both people in reality are asking for the same thing.

A head chef/crime reporter, Justin Fenton, shocked the world in a June 19th article, when he wrote” The calls [to defund] mean different things to different people. Some organizations pushing for police reform want fewer resources for police and more money for the community.” He recognized a leader in the abolitionist movement is the People’s Power Assembly, something the editorial left out.

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A day after the City’s largest march, lead by Baltimore’s youth on June 1, it was made clear what the unifying demands were for the thousands who canvassed Baltimore’s streets.

“We are not calling for police reform. We are calling for police abolition. We understand that the police establishment as a whole is too corrupt for reform, therefore we are calling for a complete restructuring of the system.” – from The Youth June 2, 2020

Is the corporate media giant, respective editorial staff, and select reporters each taking turns gaslighting the rest of the nation? No.

Many of journalism’s stalwarts, much like most police departments, are institutional relics fervently resistant to change.  Both entrepreneur David Troy (in a 2016  editorial)  and Maryland Delegate Bilal Ali (in a 2018 letter to then Mayor Catherine Pugh) proposed disbanding the department.

They did so in the wake of very public corruption scandals proposing that reforming a culture of covering up criminality isn’t in the best interest of those victimized by BPD.

“I propose that this 150-year experiment be swiftly ended. Let’s shut down the Baltimore Police Department as it exists in its current form and create a new agency that is empowered and properly constituted to meet all constitutional and legal requirements as set forth by the DOJ from its inception. ” – David Troy, 2016 Baltimore Sun

In a supreme act of gaslighting, the Sun’s editorial sought to shove down our throats the mightiest of comfort food when it wrote: “Frankly, police departments were already headed toward defunding.”  Surely the Sun isn’t suggesting that without the direct action of burning down precincts – we would have gotten here eventually anyways? Riiiight.

The Sun’s editorial brain trust didn’t mention the years of work and ideas put forth by the likes of Troy, Ali, PPA, The Youth, or ACLU.  Instead it awarded a defacto defunding of Law Enforcement to (wait for it) the resume of President Donald Trump.   The Sun viewed his mishandling of the COVID19 pandemic as akin to an unintended consequence that pushed municipalities toward “lean times” that will affect police budgets – thus defund them.

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The degree of mental gymnastics the board performed to arrive at thank Trump for defunding police is a marvel yet to be paralleled.

One can only surmise that the Sun is trying to tell its readership that the thing that they see (a demand to upend Baltimore Police)  isn’t  the thing that they fear – an effort to dismantle White Supremacy.

An unexamined editorial position is not one worth having. Whether this argument stands that the Sun is cowering from the light that oppressive policing is no longer palatable will be known soon enough.

Soon the recently racially diverse editorial staff will likely to take a stance on upcoming issues ripe for gaslighting: the city’s budget priorities, the presidential debates, the ongoing failures of the consent decree and the leadership of  Commissioner Michael Harrison.  I’ll be right here waiting, sort of.

Lincoln had it right.  Maybe the way to challenge the system is to put on a disguise, and make only clandestine  trips through Baltimore.

 

Don’t Blame The Messenger: A Case for Defending TMZ

Law enforcement in Los Angeles County has drawn first blood against online celebrity news organization TMZ. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s department admonished the online news organization for reporting that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26th before its members could officially notify the victims’ next of kin.

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Screengrab capture Twitter @TMZ

Bearer of Bad News

Being on the receiving end of hearing that a loved one has died is never easy, no matter who the messenger is. If the death is unexpected, let alone violent, only makes the news more unbearable.

No “good way” exists for the family of the victims of a helicopter crash to hear that no survivors were recovered from a fiery ball high above the hills surrounding Malibu, California. The healing will never be complete for those who loved: Kobe Bryant, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, Alyssa Atobelli, John Atobelli, Keri Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan.

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Screengrab Twitter @LASDMurakami

The space shuttle Challenger exploded on live television in 1986 killing everyone on board. Surely family and friends were taken aback at the horror that unfolded before their eyes. Among others, family members of Cantor Fitzgerald’s employees who were working when an airplane flew into the World Trade Center, would have benefit from preparing, but instead all were shocked as the towers imploded in New York City on September 11, 2001.

Accidents happen.  Notification of the sudden death of Kobe Bryant was big news. Peoples’ horrified reaction upon learning that family members (who were aware that people they loved were also in the helicopter) were notified of the accident via TMZ is understandable.  This happened simply because the news worthiness of the celebrity on board of the downed helicopter and it is indeed regrettable. It’s a sad, sad story.

Let’s make this clear:  TMZ reporting on the facts as they knew them, as soon as they felt certain of it, did nothing wrong.

Hero Worshiping

Hearing that a celebrity died evokes similar feelings as it was a family member. No one wants to learn from a Tweet that someone close to them died in an accident. Our country’s most revered heroes aren’t (as they are in some cultures) teachers, scientists, revolutionaries, writers, or statesmen; we make gods out of professional athletes.

We cannot escape celebrity culture. Helicopters fly over “private” weddings and disrupt solemn funerals. The tabloids, gossip columns fueled by paparazzi of yesteryear have been replaced by anyone with a working cell phone and camera. Law enforcement released photos of superstar musician Prince’s last known healthy moments before falling fatally ill, as reported by TMZ.

So, it’s not a lost point that people want to blame the media for being the bearer of bad news.

What Journalism Is and Isn’t

It bears watching how long law enforcement and public sentiment stay married as unlikely bedfellows in this instance.  Emotions are raw, making TMZ, owned by Warner Brothers, an easy target.

As one of the largest and most successful purveyors of “checkbook journalism”, TMZ, isn’t free of criticism.

No reputable news agency will admit to paying for stories. Those that do are admonished and labeled tabloids or gossip rags.  It is unknown how much TMZ pays and if it goes so far as to pay corrupt public servants receiving taxpayer dollars to act as snitches for sale.

Getting to the story first is one of the last badges of honor those working in the industry has remaining.

TMZ, which debuted in 2005, has quickly and rightfully earned its place high upon the pantheon for getting celebrity scoops. It gained notoriety with the actor Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest and earned Newsweek’s “Breakout Blog of 2007.” By 2009, it earned its place in pop history and media bonafides by being the first to report the death of global superstar Michael Jackson.

Getting the news fast and accurate is what most outlets strive to do. Most of what gets to the masses from law enforce through a public information officer (PIO) has been scrubbed to remove any chances to taint the criminal justice process.

Media does not have the same obligation as law enforcement officers.

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Screengrab Twitter @TMZ

Money most assuredly corrupts most things that it touches. If paying for a story casts doubt in the mind of the public of people’s motives for selling it, or evokes suspicion about the accuracy or authenticity of the information, that’s sound enough reasons to not do it.

In the case of TMZ, that doesn’t seem not to be the issue with its highly publicized and one the money scoops. It has avoided being duped with a forged document or a fooled by a tampered video.

Timing in the news business has always been of the essence.

From the other side of the lens, celebrities themselves have been part of greasing the wheel of exploitation and aiding the race of media giants to get the story first. Reportedly the photos of the twin babies of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was sold in 2008 to People Magazine for $14 million. The famous couple has not confirmed that amount, but did disclose that their photos from their daughter Shiloh two year prior was sold for a $2 million donation to charity.

In a New Yorker interview, TMZ’s managing editor Harvey Levin said nominal amounts are paid to sources for tips. Money is handed out for a list of clients for a limo service, photographs, and reportedly $250,000 for the elevator video of Solange Knowles altercation with JayZ in an elevator with Beyonce (TMZ has said it paid $5,000).

Policing the Free Press

The LA Sheriff’s department is riled up in wake of this tragedy because a news agency did not bow down and wait for them as the last and authoritative word in reporting the facts. TMZ had other reliable sources.

A nation’s hero died.

TMZ did what any responsible corporate outlet would do. It  kept to it’s business plan.  It answered to Warner Brothers’ stockholders. It scooped the mainstream outlets. TMZ bypassed the authorities who sanitize and eek out information on the justice system’s timetable. We all should expect blowback.

I’ve been thinking about my RT last night (see below), mere hours after the story broke that family members learned of a loved ones’ death via a news outlet instead of law enforcement authorities.Screenshot (3361)

 

We should applaud TMZ for not simply becoming an amplifier for government agencies repeating sanitized versions for the masses.  Too many times in my hometown of Baltimore, reporters rely only on law enforcement. Entire stories are single sourced, ie “police say” and through only one “authorized” channel.

More corporate media types should work to cultivate independent and reliable sources outside of the public relations offices of law enforcement.

A free and unencumbered press is essential to a working democracy.

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The Hunting Season: Targeting BPD’s Sean Suiter and Ike Carrington

 

 

BALTIMORE — Reporters pulled at threads to piece together a coherent follow up story today to tidy up loose ends poking out about the near fatal shooting of Baltimore City police detective Isaac “Ike” Carrington.

The city’s newspaper of record, The Baltimore Sun, took pains to distinguish how police “blocked” traffic during Carrington’s transport to the hospital, but didn’t “shut down” streets as reported by sometime rival/sometime media partner television station WBAL. On Thursday, Aug 22 flailing local outlets sought out a second day story after Carrington, 43,  was craftily released from the hospital orchestrated by the department’s public relations team.

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At the center of the patrol vehicles’ “block vs charge” debate is a friend of City Council President Brandon Scott, Ike Carrington, who has not given an interview to the press though the public has gotten to know him from his YouTube appearances.  We’ve learned that Carrington is a family man, fashion entrepreneur and police sergeant with a 22-year career in one of the nation’s most notoriously corrupt law enforcement agencies.

The curtain shielding the extent of corruption was pulled back during a high profile trial of two Baltimore Police department (BPD) officers in a specialized unit named Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) four other BPD unit members testified in early 2018 that the corruption was rampant to the degree that even the Baltimore States Attorney was tipping BPD off about feds poking their noses in. Two sergeants Thomas Allers and Wayne Jenkins did not  testify against the slew of corrupt officers as cooperating witnesses and received harsh penalties.

Even before the cops/fed witnesses held their hands up to swear to tell the truth in fed court early 2018 about their extensive criminal activities,  Det Sgt Sean Suiter was shot in a vacant alley in West Baltimore. The still unsolved murder elevated suspicion that he was targeted for his role in planting evidence along with GTTF’s leader Wayne Jenkins.

Suiter died of a single gunshot wound to the back of his head on the exact same day he was scheduled to be a fed witness against the organized crime run out of BPD HQ by some of its most decorated officers.

Reporters looking at the Aug 8, 2019 attempted murder of Ike Carrington without revisiting the early 2018 GTTF trial and Sean Suiter’s Nov 2017 murder in Harlem Park would be committing the same professional bungling BPD is known for.

Putting a Hit on Officers Isn’t That Far Fetched

Dirty cops come with dirty laundry.  No one wants to keep that stench under wraps than those who thrive on the turnstiles that make up the criminal justice system – law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors.

Whilst the feds were making its case against GTTF’s dirty cops using wiretaps and surveillance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was also rummaging through BPD HQ in response to the homicide death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  Jenkins as the supervisor of GTTF, used the unrest to cash in – by selling looted pharmaceutical drugs. Record overdoses and violence immediately followed in the most vulnerable neighborhoods where GTTF tended to prey with lucrative results.

Truth be known, the lack of integrity of BPD officers was simmering under the surface way before the GTTF scandal boiled over.  Arguably, the most noteworthy notch in Carrington’s two decades long career with BPD (that is before being shot in the back running from a gunman while off duty) was his partnership with oft disciplined BPD Officer Thomas Wilson III.

Then federal judge, and now Baltimore City Police solicitor Andre Davis, had a peculiar habit of throwing out drug cases. He also had well publicized scathing remarks about the trustworthiness of drug bust investigations conducted by Wilson and Carrington.

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As a federal judge, Davis routinely reprimanded Baltimore Police and in doing so, undermined the integrity of prosecutors’ cases (when he didn’t out and out dismiss charges against drug kingpins).  It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume notorious drug dealers would delight in seeing Judge Davis handle their case – betting the unconstitutional behavior of BPD would draw his ire enough to toss the charges all together freeing them to carry on.

Ike Carrington Linked to GTTF Through Wilson

As if Judge Davis calling Wilson out on several occasions from 2003 to 2008 wasn’t enough, confessed drug dealer, fence for BPD’s Wayne Jenkins, Donald Stepp testified during the GTTF trial that Wilson worked side hustles for Jenkins and was familiar with Jenkins drug dealing. All local media found the GTTF trial compelling but to have a civilian insider who also worked as a bailbondsman  relay his brash testimony was novel.  A colorful character on the witness stand, Donald Stepp routinely dropped nuggets, like exposing Wilson as an ally of Jenkins, and keeping photos of GTTF shenanigans on his cell phone.

Media Missing The Big Picture

Two weeks after Carrington’s shooting, local established media outlets have not yet made the connection between the shooting of the fashionable sergeant in front of his home and the GTTF probe. Screenshot (1138)

It did pop up on social media when public defender Todd Oppenheim posted a query that no MSM picked up on.  His Tweet is what led to this article. Specifically, Oppenheim called into question the partner history between Wilson and Carrington and wondered publicaly why no reporter had asked BPD officials if that GTTF link could be a possible motive for Carrington getting chased and shot in broad daylight.

It’s likely that the new commissioner Michael Harrison would behave exactly like his predecessor Kevin Davis who proclaimed that while the department had uncovered no motive for Suiter’s murder, his being scheduled to testify in a grand jury against his blue brethren was no way connected to his untimely demise. Zilch. Nada.

Independent journalists have looked closely into the Suiter case to reveal the possibility that the well respected officer was being exposed like a sitting duck. Namely Justine Barron has taken a painstaking look, frame by frame, of the video recovered that captures minutes leading up to his murder and BPD’s response.

Just this time last year, #WestBaltimore residents waited to exhale after holding its collective breath for the “independent” review board (IRB) examination of BPD’s November 2017 murder investigation of husband and father Sean Suiter.

From all appearances Suiter’s killer laid in wait until his partner David Bomenka was out of view before he was able to shoot the veteran homicide detective in the back of the head. Bomenka claimed he never saw anybody.

The IRB concluded there was no  convincing evidence that Suiter was murdered (but they never looked at his partner as being a suspect, only a witness) making suicide the only remaining option.  They also ruled out the shot to the back of the head as an accident.  PC Davis, after he was fired, stood by the decision to investigate Suiter’s death as a homicide and called the suicide theory “absurd.”

Woefully, initial media reports tend to be clumsy and hurried because the situation is fluid and outlets are desperate to not be scooped by their competitors. Add to in the high emotions of when police are investigating one of their own as a crime victim, we can be sure that this department will spin out of control ignoring all policies, protocols and training as it the IRB documented that they did during Suiter homicide almost a year ago.

BPD Shapping Ike’s Narrative

Harrison’s BPD has kept media at bay and orchestrated the messaging about the shooting with a public relations spin that has pushed local reporters to the periphery.

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The wounded officer’s release from the hospital Wednesday was accompanied by a social media maelstrom of photos of salutes from various angles by various first responders provided by BPD. Media was not permitted access to Carrington who has not given a public statement about his attackers.

Earliest Reports Gleaned by Press

Carrington and a neighbor were standing in front of his home where he lived with his family in the Frankford section of Northeast Baltimore when two men wearing masks approached. The neighbor dropped his wallet and phone and ran across the street, he told Fox45 Keith Daniels.  Carrington ran in the opposite direction according to multiple reports.

A neighbor and friend of Carrington (Jabir Pasha) who lives near the corner at Todd Ave heard the shots and then saw the Carrington, prompted him to render aid, reported the Baltimore Sun. Pasha noted a gunshot wound to both arms and also one in the back.

WJZ spoke with neighbors and captured the prerequisite “I’m shocked” interviews from people who claimed the neighborhood is quiet and friendly.

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A total of six shots were fired in Carrington’s direction. A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the sound of four shots in quick succession. After a 2-3 second silence, two more quick shots.  The “robber” chased only Carrington, who ran away from his home and his friend as his assailant gave chase.

Police quickly notified the public to be on the look out for a blue Acura that was seen fleeing the scene, which in Baltimore is tantamount for searching for a 5 feet 7 inch black man with a goatee – they’re everywhere. A similar non-description description was given for the suspect in Suiter’s murder, a black man wearing a hat and a black jacket – in November.  The reward for Carrington’s shooting is $19,000. Suiter’s broke records at over $200,000 and is still unclaimed.

In a city where anyone’s life could be snuffed out at any minute, having that reality apply to law enforcement officers is extremely unsettling. Add in that they were both black officers should arouse suspicion in an agency noted for its institutional racism.

Carrington was well known in his neighborhood and it was no secret he was an officer with the Baltimore Police department.  He was gunned down steps from his house while the person within arms reach received little attention from the robbers.

Baltimore residents deserve a legislature brave enough to insist that outside independent investigators  look into if anyone connected to LE could be responsible for the shooting of Carrington and the murder of Suiter.  In the upcoming election for mayor, any serious candidate must speak on the need to assure the public that no one from LE is actually targeting BPD.

Until taken off the table, concerned citizens are likely to believe that both Carrington and Suiter were targeted because of their affilitation with crooked cops who have an ongoing operation within BPD.  Just because the snake’s head was cut off when Wayne Jenkins was arrested (and kept his mouth shut) doesn’t mean the body of the snake isn’t slithering around the halls of easily one of the most corrupt police departments in US history.

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Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: What That White Woman Say About Black Women?

What’s crystal clear is that veteran local news anchor Mary Bubala didn’t call ex Mayor Catherine Pugh a nigger.

Nor did she sexualize Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s appearance, nor did she give the slightest hint suggesting SRB wasn’t smart enough for the job.

Never, ever did Bubala even utter Sheila Dixon and pickaninny in the same sentence.

But if she had said any of these things the conversation in public and private spaces would have been much different. So now people, black and white alike, are confused about what all the hubbub is about.

Because it intersects race, gender, and class issues in Baltimore, it’s really about a lot of things. And accordingly, the local media got it mostly wrong.

All Kinds of Wrong

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Former WJZ news anchor Mary Bubala

What Had Happened Wuz

With a black journalist on set of WJZ TV as a guest, Dr. Kaye Whitehead, who is an award winning documentary filmmaker and university professor, Bubala asked whether it was time to move away from black woman as mayoral candidates considering the failures (in Bubala’s opinion) of each of the three: Sheila Dixon (resigned), Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (did not seek re-election) and Catherine Pugh (resigned).

Social media exploded.  Journalists from a professional association (BABJ) dedicated to mentoring and establishing standards for their members drew first blood:

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Not Everybody Is Mad Tho

I’m going to talk to my people first. People, my people:

Catherine Pugh’s side hustle was a breach of trust.  I heard ya’ll say: she sold #HealthyHolly books and got a half million dollars?  Damn girl!

But this isn’t a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” type of scenario.

Gaming the system became an art form for us ever since the US defaulted on our 40 acres and a mule.

Sometimes, we know, we just gotta get ours. But in Pugh’s case she was the system, and took an oath to make the system work for the same people she swore to protect and lift up. Then she allegedly used her position to line her own pockets.

What Catherine Pugh Did Wrong

True you might say, Cathy’s game was not as strong as all the white male mayors who have likely done worse.  You might also say she broke the cardinal rule: she forgot who she was, who she was playing with, and flew a little to close to the sun.  You might even say Pugh deserved to be forced to resign i.e. fired for being so blatant with her ratchetness.

Privately I hear you say Sheila and Cathy made us look bad and maybe we need to go back to white male leadership. But when I really listen, I hear ya’ll’s pain.  As notable journalist Lisa Snowden- McCray said recently on a WYPR broadcast: “It’s sad”

We are embarrassed and ashamed. Wearily, we become more than willing to return to pointing fingers at “the man” and grumbling about how he is keeping us down.

We don’t get that many chances. Which is why Mary Bubala’s comments stung.

Baltimore City has had “ …three female, African-American mayors in a row…Is it a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?”  – Mary Bubala

Across racial lines, sympathy for 15 year veteran CBS affiliate news anchor Mary Bubala is palpable and growing. A change.org petition has been started to get her back on the air.

What’s Really Wrong is … With Journalism

My source for taking the pulse of Baltimore is my mom.  Larry Young hasn’t talked about it on his show as I sit here writing, so of course, she didn’t know anything about it. She lives in senior community and the gossip spread through there like a California wildfire. So I showed her the Sun article.

According to the sage woman who raised me (and I’m paraphrasing):

[Bubala] said what she felt. What’s wrong with that? All the callers to Larry Young feel the exact same way, and they’re black.  People want to move way from black leadership, because the three mayors were failures. We had our chance, according to my mom.  She shouldn’t get fired. Everybody is saying the same thing. The Pugh ordeal was so over the top. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Understandably, the Loyola of Maryland professor, Dr. Karsona “Kaye” Whitehead prefers to discuss what can be learned from the bias displayed as discussed in a May 8 Baltimore Magazine interview.

I’m willing to accept that Mary Bubala’s apology that it wasn’t her best day, and she wasn’t as artful as she would have liked. I’ll even give her a pass for allowing an opinion slip into her questioning.

I am no way excusing WJZ’s decision to not permit Bubala to offer her apology on air or effectively engage in dialogue with the public she has served for 15 years for an utterance that will stain her career. Audra Swain, pictured above right, is WJZ’s general manager.

 

Likewise, there is absolutely no pass for the Baltimore Sun in treating the story as one of her firing and not one about the role of journalists, their ethics, duty to objectivity and struggles with bias.  The editorial staff, namely Tricia Bishop (above left)  continues to miss the point as it makes it an ideological difference in calling the conversation a left wing vs right wing debate.

There should be an apology to residents of Baltimore by both WJZ and The Baltimore Sun. However, I kind of expect one from the former that precede’s Bubala’s likely return, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for anything close an acknowledgment from the latter.

Cops as Criminals: It’s Not Black and White

All crooked cops aren’t created equally.

Some are born crooked. Some are led astray. Still others, like Momodo Gondo, has crookedness thrust upon him.

No one can pinpoint exactly when Baltimore Police became a hotbed of corruption. More importantly though, no one alive today can honestly remember when it wasn’t.

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Above: Momodu Gondo points to former BPD commander Dean Palmere (Below) who helped orchestrate the cover up of a murder carried out by a GTTF member. Palmere is the subject of a lawsuit that claims it was his command that permitted abuses by GTTF.

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Gondo and his closest Baltimore Police Department (BPD) buddy Jemell Rayam set the federal courthouse on fire last year as cooperating witnesses against two officers standing trial, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor. The testimony was explosive pointing fingers at higher ups and eventually one another as members of the media darlings: Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

Gondo is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday February 12th. The month-long trial left a lasting impression:  corruption is rampant throughout BPD and everybody knows it.  The most influential media types have coddled the likes of former BPD commissioner and WBAL guest talk show host Kevin Davis who as points to a few bad apples tarnishing an otherwise stellar organization.

The world (not an exaggeration) took notice of BPD’s level of corruption after what happened to 25-year old Freddie Gray.  A bystander’s  video of Gray, wounded and howling, sickened all with a conscience who heard it.  People still cringe watching the previously healthy and strapping young man being helped into the back of a van by a cadre of white officers.

So there’s that.

Even before Gray’s fatal injuries in police custody, in 2014, the Baltimore Sun chronicled the exorbitant payouts in taxpayer dollars to silence citizens who suffered mightily at the hands of a small, but growing and increasingly violent cadre of police officers.

If Baltimore didn’t invent Walking While Black, it sure did its damnest to perfect it. Screenshot (2023)

West Baltimore is where the long arm of constitutional protections simply does not reach.  Never did. Generations of families suffer from substandard housing, lack of health care, poor nutrition, high drop out rates and low income with precious few escapes.

Heavily reliant upon mass transits, West Baltimore is where BPD members hone their racist practices disguised as stops, searches, and seizures.  Sadly, two decades into the new millennium, some blacks believe that over policing is what is needed to make their communities safe.

The lack of concern for West Baltimore was never more evident that during the uprising when Douglass High School students were dismissed early from school, only to have the MTA refuse them service at the Mondawmin Metro stop, forcing them to walk home, only to be confronted with grown as police men (mostly) in riot gear hurling chunks of brick at the children.

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After a yearlong investigation, the Department of Justice (called in after the Freddie Gray homicide), released its findings in an August 2016 scathing report. To no one’s surprise, the DOJ found that systemic racist practices were embedded so deep into the culture that BPD had not shed even a layer of its  history cloaked with KKK sympathizers.

The corruption was inescapable in 2016. Even so, when black homicide detective Sean Suiter was shot in the back of his head in November 2017 on a vacant lot in broad daylight with a white partner in tow, no one hardly blinked when BPD treated residents of Harlem Park like it was Fullujah.

Parallels to the Iraq War and BPD training are eerily similar.  Evidence of mistreatment of women recruits was captured as a “trophy”.

Arguably, Momodo Gondo, as an eager recruit didn’t join BPD with plans of using his badge and glock as a literal license to kill, maim, intimidate and harass.  The kid came from a “good family” of immigrants in a two parent household of professionals.

His father, Albert Gondo, a native of Sierra Leonne (as is his wife), worked for 20 years as a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools. He died in December 2016 after a lengthy battle with Cancer.  According to his family, he was known a a principled man, a devoted husband and father.

When emotions ran high during the GTTF trial, Gondo would take to swearing on the memory of his dead father to repudiate fellow detective Jemelle Rayam’s claim about why Gondo was shot shoon after leaving the Academy. Rayam has yet to be sentenced.

If Gondo wasn’t born bad, when did it all go wrong?

The Academy – 2005

Gondo @22 years old

Gondo and his academy brother  Rayam are the final two government witnesses awaiting sentencing.  Gondo – under oath accused Rayam of cold-blooded murder (explored further in Part II) that was covered up by Palmere.

Academy training has more in common with military training than the most of the public may know. The enemy are the people on the street, the community members and the only ones cops trust are themselves.  The creed is to make it home safe. It rarely has anything to do with protecting and serving the public. Especially if the public is black, male and doubly so if he lives in West Baltimore.

Indoctrination and training are the two major components of the trainee’s experiences.  Like the military, the BPD academy experience is designed to break down a person, and build them up. Not coincidentally, it also serves as a loyalty demand. Recruits early on learn to depend on the brotherhood as if their life depended on it.

Gondo graduated in October 2006.

Screenshots from a 2004 era video of a training exercise where a trainee exits a gas house puking with her skin burning reliant upon BPD to carry her to safety. The level of depravity at BPD seemingly knows no bounds.

3 Shots in the Back – 2006

Gondo @23 years old

Then-Officer Gondo was shot three times in the back in December 2006, barely two months after graduating the academy.  Using a photo array, Gondo fingered the shooter as 24-year old Collin Hawkins (with a long history of drug dealing offenses on his record).  The feds, not the Baltimore States Attorney’s office made the case.

The particular moment that turned Gondo into a career criminal cannot be exact, but the same cannot be said for determining when BPD failed him and the community he was allowed to stalk.

Attempted Murder Trial – 2008

Gondo @25 years old

A case of He said vs He said.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict for the man charged with pumping 3 bullets into the back of a bullet proof vest Gondo was wearing as he got out of his car near his home in East Baltimore.

As the victim (and a cop to boot) Gondo pointed out for the jury,  a young black man Collin Hawkins as the person he fired 13 rounds at in a street shoot out. Gondo told the jury that he he and Hawkins struggled as he tried to thwart a carjacking. No dice. The jury decided not to believe Gondo.

Hawkins’ defense attorney claimed that Gondo simply chose the wrong guy. The defense pointed to the State’s Attorney’s Office’s extremely weak case with no gun, no DNA from the reported struggle. It was just the rookie’s word,  and it wasn’t enough.

Next Up: in Part II Fed Witness Testimony and The Sentencing

The Domino Effect: Follow the Crumbling Crust

Blinded by the heat of dark smoke sucking all breathable air from the room, firefighters crawl on all fours, feeling their way around the mansion’s bedroom’s walls, After circling back to where the crawling began, they venture into the room’s center.

A bump into a chair didn’t sit right. It was unusually heavy.  Almost an hour since the call came in for a ho hum chimney fire, firefighters would uncover what nobody had expected: there was a body on the chair.

Adrenaline and shouts filled the room with newfound urgency.

The rescue wouldn’t be easy.  The body kept slipping through rescuer’s fingers!

My lieutenant asked with exasperation, help me with the victim, Sgt Michael Adler told a jury.

“I am,” he recalled saying.

“Turns out we were touching two different bodies.”

Once the smoke cleared they saw through blood smeared goggles  what they previously had only felt by sliding. “It was a bloodbath,” Ader said. Cutting through the layer of soot that covered the bedroom’s door that lead out to the hallway, he used his fingers to write “No Go.”

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From that moment on, entry into what would be called Bedroom 1 was forbidden without an escort. The recently redecorated house was now a crime scene. Jurors would hear firefighter’s tales of using webbing to get a grip on a body covered in blood and intricate details about the science of DNA.

At the center of the trial’s testimony rests two nearly pristine pizza boxes recovered in a bedroom mostly covered in soot and soaked where water sprayed all around much like the dancing balloon guy, a witness said.

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Bedroom 1 and the pizza boxes inside would be the key to piecing together clues that investigators would use to identify a suspect.

The lead evidence technician for the case, Jeffrey Henderson testified he recovered the boxes from Bedroom 1 documenting it with a photo shown to the jury. The side of the box still had a paper printout with the  order time of  9:14 pm, the phone number that called and instructions: Ring Bell.  Henderson discarded the pizza into a bag in the hallway he said. The department’s policy and practices was not to test perishables, he said.

Was there a crust? The prosecution asked attempting to zoom in and around the remaining three slices.

“I don’t remember,” Henderson said.

Six days after Washington DC firefighters stumbled surprisingly upon three adult bodies in a house they originally thought was routine, Daron Wint’s fiancé got the shock of her life.  A haze of confusion would suggest that the love of her life was connected to the horrible events that occurred between May 14 and 15, 2015 in Bedroom 1.

Three years after the fact, sixteen jurors would watch as diagrams, photos and vivid descriptions told the tale of how four lives came to a brutal and bloody end in the first four weeks of testimony in what media dubbed The Mansion Murders.

The Victims

On May 14, 2015, the couple (both 47 years old) along with their 10-year old son Philip and a longtime housekeeper Vera Figueroa were violently killed using multiple weapons.

Vera would survive for only minutes when rescuers arrived. But both the husband and wife, although removed from the house, were already dead.  They were all pulled from Bedroom 1.  Sharing a closet, that sort of became a passageway for the fire to travel was Bedroom 2, where the fourth body would later be recovered.

The fourth, final and tiniest body was discovered in Bedroom 2, precariously balanced on what remained of metal coils of a bed’s box spring.  The firefighter nearly fell through the floor as he simply covered the remains with a protective orange tarp.  Although discovered last, investigators told the jury, the boy was where the fire started. Someone poured gasoline on the bed, enough to seep onto the floor underneath. Wooden matchsticks outside the door revealed the exit path took by the murder(s) down the stairs away from the horror left behind.

The Suspect

Daron Dillon Wint, 37, came to the United States from Guyana, South America when he was a teenager in 2000.  He comes from a large blended family with cousins and extended family in the DC/MD area as well as in New York.  His green card had expired and he had hopes of becoming a U.S. citizen.  Skilled as a welder, he was known as XX for the decorative welding mask he wore.  His fiancé, who goes by the name of Vanessa, knew him simply as Dillon.

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Daron Dillon Wint in undated photo

A health enthusiast, his visits to the gym would last for hours and he would go 4-5 times a week.  His small stature, about 5 feet 8 and 160 lbs, the most striking physical attribute would be his shoulder length locks. His courtroom attire of dress pants (accentuated a waist of about 28 inches) and freshly pressed dress shirt and tie. His voice carries the flavor of both his Caribbean roots and tinges of his American aspirations.

They two spent three days together, shopping, eating out, and planning their lives together. Daron had told her we won the lottery twice that week.  On May 20, 2015 in her New York apartment Vanessa was watching the evening news; her fiancé Daron had already drifted off to sleep.  It was hump day.  Pretty humdrum.   Until she saw the face of the man lying next her pop up on the television screen.

For all the world to see, broadcasters were saying Daron Wint was wanted for a quadruple murder in Washington DC. Her scream startled Daron awake.  The first call he made was to his father. The call was expected; police were at the house.  Over the phone, D.C.’s Metropolitan police department notified him of the warrant, charges and told him to turn himself in. He hung up and the two checked into a hotel.

What Wint didn’t know at the time is that police had linked him to the crime by DNA tests conducted on a sliver of pizza crust that investigators say was ordered to the house while the family were tied up while waiting for the bank to open the next day. The story of the murders and subsequent fire made the news not just in DC and Maryland, but Matt Lauer led off his broadcast on The Today Show with the story.  The brazen nature of the crime and how intricate the planning appeared had people (including police) speculating that more than one person was involved.

Daron Wint has maintained his innocence in the three years it took for the case to come to trial.  No other suspect has been charged.

A week after the murders, police would have gotten their man: taken down by pizza crust.  Inside Edition and ABC’s 20/20 ate it up.  The surprises, however, don’t stop there.

Carving Up State’s Pizza Crust Accusation

Sloppiness, inaccuracies and lack of confidence had the FBI halting its use of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) forensics unit.  In a series of articles by the Washington Post, In May 2015, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had stepped in to conduct investigations for the District.

A combination of forensic employees from both agencies were assembled in a task force working as a team to process the sprawling three story house that also included a finished basement as well as the cars in the garage, the driveway, and two vehicles that were off site and set on fire.  Simply put, it was a lot.  A lot of eyes were watching.

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Resources were stretched thin.  Roles sometimes were undefined or overlapped. Prosecutors spent days tediously laying out pieces of evidence that had been photographed, collected, tested and stored. Initially, keeping the juror’s attention, until testimony revealed that no fingerprints or DNA was successfully lifted from either of the baseball bats presumed to be the murder weapons or a sword with its handle left in the toilet.

The brazenness of hardened killer(s) ordering pizza delivery to a house with the family tied up in a bedroom as while waiting for banks to open the next morning is tough to swallow. Even more flaky is that the prosecution has yet to provide the first link in the chain of evidence and has not yet answered:  Who recovered the pizza crust?

Part 1 of 2  “The Domino Effect”

Next: Part 2 Focuses on the chain of custody of the crust no one can account for as well as surprising revelations by the defense.

Never Saw it Coming: Suspect on Trial for Mansion Murders Was Duped

It’s saying a lot when there’s no Law and Order episode that even comes close to what’s been unfolding in the #MansionMurders trial in D.C.’s Superior Court.  Nearly for the entire month of September jurors have been able to come face to face with the person who ate pizza in a house where a quadruple murder/kidnapping plot was unfolding.

The prosecution’s case charging felony murder did not disappoint. The surprises came early and often.

The diverse jury was seated on Monday Sept 10 in the government vs Daron Wint, 37, a native of Guyana, South America.  Wint faces 20 counts involving the brutal deaths of husband and wife Savvos and Amy Savopoulus, both 47, their 10-year old son Philip and their housekeeper Vera Figueroa on a sunny and warm afternoon on May 14, 2015.

 

There’s also no shortage of shocking moments in the 2015 case. It’s easy to imagine writers around Law and Order tossing the Mansion Murder’s script in the trash – claiming that it’s just too far fetched.  Who would believe cops caught the person eating the pizza, but not those who swung the bat and literally burned the house down?

News accounts even before the trial’s opening statements had the public salivating for more knowing only:

  • An innocent 10-year old boy’s body was burned beyond identification and police suggest that he had been tortured.
  • Firefighters respond to a call for a chimney fire and later end up stumbling over three adult bodies in a bedroom before finding the charred remains of the fourth in an adjoining room.
  • A newly hired personal assistance/driver to Savvas as CEO of a manufacturing company was also a flashy aspiring race car driver.  He delivers the ransom money by leaving $40,000 withdrawn from the bank that morning in the driver’s seat of a rare sports car parked in the family’s garage.
  • The driver sends pics of half of the money to a girlfriend, quickly deletes it and tells a series of lies to homicide investigator about his activities the day the ransom was delivered.
  • While being held against their will, both Amy and Savvas make multiple phone calls keeping people away from the house and arranging large cash withdrawals talking to his sister and a company executive. They also leave voice messages sounding oddly casual and chipper that would later be played in court.
  • Vera’s husband and daughter bang on the front door looking for her after she didn’t come home only to get a phone call from Savvas saying no one’s home, they’re at the hospital. They snap pictures of a Porsche before leaving to find Vera.
  • Amy’s Porsche (saw by Vera’s family) is spotted on camera heading out of the city and later found that evening ablaze in a Maryland parking lot with evidence  inside, linking Wint to the crime.

Surprise #1 The Opening Statements

The prosecution went first.  Assistant US Attorney Christopher Bruckman, who could easily work at Dundler Mifflin, called the motive behind the quadruple murder one of the earliest known to mankind: greed.  Case in point the $40,000 in ransom money delivered to the home the morning of May 14, 2015.  The government all but assured a grieving family and a worried community that the only person involved in the massacre was sitting at the defendant’s table wearing dreadlocks.

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Daron Wint booking photo in 2015, then 35, of Lanham, MD.

Calling the DNA evidence “powerful” the prosecution abandoned the narrative homicide detectives have been pushing nearly from the beginning: the murder and kidnapping could not have been a one man job.  Three years later, they assert, Daron Wint, and him alone is responsible.  This new strategy causes the entire gallery to sit on the edge of their seats.

Surprise 2: Opening statements, this time a double whammy from the defense’s table: The defense places their client in the actual house where three adults and a 10 year old were being held captive with duck tape and neckties. Jurors shifted in their chairs when defense claimed that the kidnapping was occurring upstairs, unbeknownst to him. It was a tough sell.

Four people were being held captive for about 18 hours. Then murdered in a grand house in a prominent neighborhood that was then set on fire.  Wint, although in the house as one time or another was extremely clueless. but also very hungry. He ate pizza while he was there- his attorneys tell the jury.  And then the other shoe drops.  Wint knows who did it!  His brothers.  The prosecutors across the aisle learned of this tidbit at the same time media did. The air in the courtroom hang heavy.

Fig 1 Arrest warrant for Daron Wint

Circled in yellow below, authorities were looking for others involved in the kidnapping and murders, admitting that no way the crimes could have been carried out by a single individual.  That is until Wint himself said other were involved – then the government said no way – it was only you.

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Wint’s lawyers from the DC public defenders’ office told the jury how cell phones would reveal coordination between his brothers as they carried out the scheme.  And that Wint himself had an alibi for part of the time the crimes were taking place.  Wint, learning only after the fact of what had occurred, is offered money for his silence, the story goes.  With his name the only one attached to this crime, Daron Wint, puts two and two together. He’s been set up. Counsel for the defense is Judith Pipe and Jeffrey Stein.

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Time Is Not on Their Side

Three years have since passed. School shootings have become quite normal. Donald Trump is now midway through his first term after a hot mic caught him boasting about routinely sexually assaulting women. What caused people’s jaws to drop in 2015 may now only raise an eyebrow.  As gruesome of a story the mansion murder case still is, the national consciousness had grown callous.

Daron Wint now 38, was captured on live television, suspiciously, after a reported “manhunt“took over the morning national network news shows.. Back then, media outlets across the country broadcast a picture of a muscular black man with long dreadlocks with piqued interest since the crime occurred within blocks of the residence of then-Vice President of the U.S. ,Joe Biden.  Everyone from Inside Edition covering the funeral, to ABC’s 20/20 wanted a taste.

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From almost day one, police have speculated that the quadruple murder that involved holding three adults hostage overnight would involve more than one person. Not to mention the travel coordination that could explain the removal and subsequent torching of Amy Savvapoulos’ Porsche, miles from the scene.

The bombshells dropped during opening statements were only a reflection of what would lie ahead.

Next up:  Surprise #2 The Domino Effect: Follow the Crumbling Crust

Also in this series:  Prosecutions’ Star Witnesses Jordan Wallace; Judge Juliet McKenna and the Case of the Hairy Evidence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder By Numbers: Policing in Baltimore Just Doesn’t Add Up

Prologue:  Baltimore Police are cornered. After the uprising sparked by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, the Department retaliated by purposely neglecting neighborhoods they deem to be not worthy of police protection by what they ironically called taking a knee. In one of those areas, Harlem Park, Det. Sean Suiter was shot in the head and left for dead in 2017. Police face scrutiny from Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and the ACLU when it suspended the Constitution by preventing free movement in this residential area for nearly a week. Top brass rationalized the move as necessary to catch a vaguely described black man wearing a black jacket. The case is still unsolved despite a record setting $215,000 reward.

Nudged in between 2015 (Gray) and 2017 (Suiter) one murder victim went largely noticed.  However, the case emerged from the shadows, in March 2018 when parents took their concerns to the regular monthly meeting of the Civilian Review Board. Just so happens, representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice were in attendance and took a keen interest in the case of Greg Riddick. After tearful testimony and an enraged Board at a May 2018 CRB meeting, the Board issued its blistering findings – willfully exceeding its authority due to the atrocities its investigation uncovered. 

PART I: What follows shows what happens when civilians have a say in policing and why clearly Baltimore police are utterly incapable of policing themselves.

 

crime scene tape

Gregory Riddick’s parents learned of their son’s death like countless many others in Baltimore.

They logged onto to Murder Ink.

No one from BPD called the family about recovering Greg’s body.  There was no late night knock on the door. Nor did the family themselves call around to hospitals or their local precinct.  That stuff only happens in the movies.

In this instance, Baltimore’s latest murder victim was not identified by name, but by number. The report stated  a 26-year old male died of gunshot wounds in the area where Gregg was last known to have been. It was with the announcement on Murder Ink,  the family’s tug of war with the all mighty and powerful Baltimore City Police Department began.

“They didn’t ask me to come down and ID my son or nothing,” said Riddick.  “The next time I saw my son was in the funeral home.”

Greg Trill
Gregory E. Riddick, Jr

Justice at this point seems to be too big of an ask. Each day local television, social media and The Baltimore Sun tallies up people’s sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, fathers and friends as if they were counting Chicklets out of a gumball machine.

Save the rare novelty of a victim who was also an honor roll student, a grandmother or young child, mainstream media fails to show the humanity of the lives lost, the suffering of the community, and more likely than not these days, the role that BPD played.

Murder Ink, the lifeline for much of Baltimore, didn’t tell the whole story, of course. Maintained by the alt-weekly City Paper, crime victims relied upon its community-centered reporting.  Reporters filled in details where outlets like The Sun fell short.

Predictably, mainstream media only told the police’s version.  Greg Riddick Jr. was shot, yes.  But he was also ran over and dragged over 1,000 feet, in full view of police officers, a innocent bystander who became a witnesses, and even to those of us listening/reading the 9 1-1 call.

There’s one  significant detail BPD didn’t release to the media that became the catalyst for one Baltimore’s family to become mourner-activists. Police were on the scene at the shooting. Neither officer made a move to secure the crime scene, call in the shooting, or do what the civilian did when he saw a man suffering – come to his aid.

 

Riddick Sr.’s strong Christian faith and the determination of everyone who loved Greg is what that propels them all to push for answers and accountability of the Baltimore City Police Department.

For an emergency, dial 9 1-1

This murder story begins with 9 1-1 call regarding shots fired and ends with a horror one cannot imagine.  The tape is likely to haunt all not lulled to sleep by the silent counting of those who lost their lives to the proliferation of guns and the ineffectiveness of the Baltimore Police Department. It all happened in front of witnesses, and it was captured on video surveillance.

“I am on Harford Road and Homestead. Uh, somebody just got shot in front of me,” said the caller on the 9 1-1 tape.

These are the words of the Good Samaritan traveling home about 1 am after visiting an ailing family member. His identity is being shielded as the investigation is ongoing and because, well, it’s Baltimore.

It was his first words spoken to the 9 1-1 operator.   It details the eyewitness’ account, establishes the presence of BPD at the scene, and gives a real time accounting of the hit and run that would follow after Riddick was shot.

Riddick Sr. first heard the 9 1-1 tape alone.  He heard a male caller describe how he saw a car speed away after a shooting.  And that the victim was laying in the middle of the street.  The witness recollects first trying to get the police’s attention before resorting to calling 9 1-1.

He finds the man’s efforts and experiences to be both horrific and at the same time comforting.  A complete stranger stood near his son to provide comfort and security.

“The man. He didn’t have to stop,” Riddick said.

For Annette Gibson, Greg’s mother, the discussion of the tape and the officers’ lack of action stirs up a full range of emotions.

“I couldn’t, [listen]” Gibson said through tearful sobs. “I don’t want to hear it.”

At first despondent, then determined, suddenly angry and back to sobbing she relives the events of earier that day.  Greg had arrived in Baltimore earlier that day to pack. He was moving out of the city and the dangers that he was no stranger to.

Before hanging up with the 9 1-1 dispatch, the witness final words were prophetic.

“Yes, the police are here,” said the eyewitness. “They’re taking care of it.”

9 11 Tape Transcript

One answer Greg’s family wants to know is whether the officers at the car stop had Body Worn Cameras (BWC).  A new BWC policy was implemented shortly after Gray’s widely publicized death because of explainable circumstances clouded his in custody death, eroding what little trust existed between the majority of the city’s residents and the 3000+ member force of sworn police officers.

The voice on 9 1-1 tape captures the fear many black men feel in the city. Along with the literal and figurative distance victims and witness alike experience as detached police officers pursue a traffic stop while ignoring a desperate man’s attempt to flag down assistance.

Believing half of what you see and none of what you hear.

There appears to be two sources of video that could have captured both the shooting and the hit and run. One is the owned by the liquor store on the corner and the other is the surveillance system, Citi Watch, operated by Baltimore City Police.

“[BPD] didn’t show me the one on the pole, that’s on the street, said Riddick. The family believes a video exists that would capture the exact location of the police during the traffic stop and why they both didn’t see or hear the shots that the witness did from inside his car.  It would also verify the witness’s account that police ignored his request to help the gunshot victim, prompting him to call 9 1-1 instead.

Pressing for an arrest, the homicide detective initially assigned to the case, Det. Joshua Fuller, met with the family for an update on the investigation. Fuller showed Riddick the footage from the store. Two men are seen creeping along side of the liquor store lying in wait for Greg to get to the corner. Based on conversation Greg was having on the phone, Riddick believed family members would be able to identify the shooters.

No one has responded to the family’s request for Citi Watch footage. It appears that the camera is positioned perfectly to capture the assailants who crept up on Greg from Homestead as he was walking along Harford Road.

Harford Road and Homestead

“[The family] came to I.D. [the shooters], but Fuller wouldn’t do it,” Riddick said.

According to police, while waiting to view the video, BPD overheard a conversation that concerned them about potential retaliation.  As a result, the only family member who was then allowed to see the video was Riddick, Sr.  He was not able to make a positive identification.

“Fuller’s supervisor told him not to (make the arrest ) because of retaliation.” Greg’s family believes something more sinister is at work.  They are seeking the medical examiner’s report to determine the exact cause of death.  If Greg could have survived the bullets but died because of the injuries sustained when the car ran him over, they believe Baltimore City Police have reason enough to stave off the investigation.

“I went down to Internal Affairs and filed paperwork.”  A common public misconception is that IAD is an independent body charged with investigating complaints against the police.

“I told them the whole story. So I figured that OK, Internal affairs. They gonna investigate. They’re not on the police side,” said Riddick.

It then became a waiting game.

“I guess they was hoping that the eight months that the paperwork was just sitting there on his desk that I would just let it go, but I wasn’t going to let it go,” Riddick said.  “Then I got a letter from [Ian] Dombrowski … that they didn’t find anything.”

The head of IAD at the time -then Deputy Commissioner Ian Dombrowki was fingered by convicted BPD officers from the now defunct Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) squad during a 2018 federal corruption and robbery trial of tipping off officers that the feds were watching. He has since been demoted to major.

dombroski
Major Ian Dombrowski

His boss, the head of the department overseeing IAD, Deputy Commissioner Rodney Hill, retired shortly after the GTTF trial ended.

After IAD notified the family that it found no wrongdoing on the part of Baltimore Police in Greg’s murder, the homicide detective leading the investigation, Det. Fuller resigned from BPD, said Riddick.  It would take months before the family would meet the new lead investigator Jill Beauregard-Navarro.

She would make headlines in The Baltimore Sun in May 2018 for what prominent defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon would call “putting bodies on bodies.” BPD, facing mounting unsolved murders, has cleared record numbers by fingering a dead person as the likely the suspect – case solved.  If more could be done to drag Greg’s memory for his family, it would be if such an atrocity happened.

When one door closes…

Had Riddick known to have asked, he would been told that IAD rarely sustains complaints of police misconduct. With Gregg Riddick’s death, the membership into a club no one wants to belong to grew by dozens. The friends and families of victims of gun violence quickly become students of not just the intricacies and bureaucracy that accompany police investigations but receive an up close and personal view of the purported Wall of Silence.

The family stands alone.  No one in BPD or the State’s Attorney’s Office has told them that the two officers who were citing a traffic violation while Greg was being shot and later ran by over by a car did anything wrong.

When BPD didn’t find any wrongdoing with the two officers who seemingly were preoccupied with a traffic stop and not with a gunshot victim, the Riddick family filed a CRB Complaint form_2 with the Baltimore Office of Civil Rights’ Civilian Review Board.

A well respected community leader, Delegate Jill Carter left Annapolis in early 2017 to rejuvenate the Civilian Review Board as she took the helm of the Office of Civil Rights. Community members appointed by the commission and approved by the Mayor represent each of the BPD nine districts.  By statute they can subpoena witnesses, view police files, and investigate complaints. What they cannot do is mete out punishment to offending officers.

The Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBR) from the 1970s establishes protocols for police accused of misconduct and criminal activity. Over the years, as cries of police abuses have increased, the protections afforded by the LEOBR has largely stayed the same.  The CRB is handcuffed. The board of citizens can only investigate on claims against officers in five categories: Excessive Force, False Arrest, False Imprisonment, Harassment and Abusive Language.

Although the circumstances of Greg’s death didn’t not fit the definitions that by statue limit CRB’s purview, they took the complaint as a “harassment” claim and investigated the case.

“It breaks my heart, really really to read that whole situation,” said board member George Buntin, Wester District representative.  “The harassment is not there.”

Appalled at even the failure to control the crime scene, the board’s frustration with their limitations was evident. The board met in March CRB Minutes and initially struggled with making a determination of the complaint designated as harassment.

“It’s hard to stretch any of our jurisdiction to what happened here. Can we call it harassment? I don’t think so,” said member Mel Currie, Southwestern district.  “The Civilian Review Board, what I think we should be is.. .we would be the counterpart to Internal Affairs. We should be External Affairs.” Currie said.

As the board began to debate not sustaining the harassment claim, silent tears began to fall from Greg’s grandmother’s eyes.  She was given a box of tissues.  Greg Riddick, Sr was given the opportunity to talk.

For five minutes, a father implored the Board to not let homicide number 299 from 2016 become a historical statistic. His moving account of the circumstances of the 26-year old’s murder had seasoned Board members holding their heads in their hand and lawyers wiping at their eyes.

His sometimes wavering voice full of emotion carried much further that day because unbeknownst to him, representatives from the Department of Justice were in the audience. Video from the meeting can be viewed here around the 32 minute mark.

Justice for Greg is not likely to come from BPD, the SAO, the media or even the DOJ.  It’ll happen when citizens like those on the CRB have the power to decide what behaviors they will and will not accept by the officers that roam the street.

CRB envisions itself having a different process in handling complaints where the public is negatively impacted by police action.  The current process requires complainants to check a box accusing officers of a specific violation.  The Board then deliberates and decides whether or not the stated accusation is upheld.

CRB chairman Bridall Pearson suggested a better process where the event is described by the complainant and the board then arrives at the label of the associated violation.

“If we have a process like that, there’s something we could do about [Riddick’s complaint],” said Pearson.  “In this situation it’s difficult, because our hands are tied.”

 

 

Next Up: Part II The Medical Examiner, Healing and Advocacy

 

 

 

8 Seconds: Baltimore Police Breaks Silence on Day of Det. Sean Suiter’s Death

Det. Sean Suiter was shot in the back of his head on November 15, 2017 and died the next day of the injuries associated with that single shot.  Officers who responded to the scene, loaded him into a patrol car in attempt to save his life. Save his funeral, none of his brothers in blue have been heard from.

Inexplicably, neither BPD or the FOP union have made frequent appeals for tips from the public to solve the confusing and dead-end case. Nor has the robust city and the police department’s public relations team persisted to keep this open case in the hearts and minds of the public.  Quite the contrary, Det. Suiter has taken on a “he who must not be named” quality.

suiter memorial
Makeshift memorial for Det. Sean Suiter in the lot where he was shot.

The city’s newspaper of record, the Baltimore Sun on March 22 offered readers an update on the Suiter investigation. It did so with the controversial use of a heavy dose of anonymous sources.   Although the sources were not named, most assume they are Baltimore Police officers willing to break their silence on the cold case.  The article focused on debating a popular theory within the department of suicide.

Using five unnamed sources presumably close to the investigation, veteran Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector and Justin Fenton used unorthodox methods in order to update a public thirsty for details.

Baltimore City Police department’s speaks out on investigation of murder of one of its own,  Det. Sean Suiter

 

Commissioner Darryl De Sousa declined to be interviewed for the article published March 22, 2018. The Top Cop’s last comment on the case came during the week he was confirmed to his post. He announced convening an outside panel in mid February to give fresh eyes to the investigation without giving any details despite pressure from media. Gov. Larry Hogan, and the Baltimore delegation to the Maryland General Assembly who has statutory oversight of BPD were not included in the article.

Other people not interviewed: Any member of Det. Sean Suiter’s family, the Medical Examiner, the doctor who treated him, the ambulance driver who transplanted him

bomenka
David Bomenka

from the wrecked patrol car during the accident, any of the individuals in the accident en route to the hospital, the Harlem Park residents who were affected by the lockdown, the store owner whose surveillance tape was confiscated by BPD, members of the Consent Decree Monitoring team of the ACLU of MD which is requesting body worn camera for that day -or the only eyewitness – Det. David Bomenka –  just to name a few.

But in remembrance of time honored words of Sec. of State Donald Rumsfeld, we go to battle with allies (sources) we have, not with the ones we want.

Readers’ anxiety was not assuaged since the reporters took no pains to reveal the qualifications of the anonymous sources they did talk to. However, the reporters insist that the five sources combine to have seen the video, talked to people who have seen it, and also have knowledge of statements given to investigators.

Importantly, The Baltimore Sun disclosed that in preparing for the “Exclusive” its sources did not provide them access to view any of the videos, listen to any audio, or view any written documents or photographs.

Deep Diving In

The one person expected to have the most answers is the partner who was with him at the time, Det. David Bomenka.  Regrettably, according to the latest Sun exclusive, Bomenka saw about as much as the rest of us.

  • He didn’t see the shooting.
  • He didn’t see the shooter.

The eyewitness then appears to be more of an ear witness.  The location Bomenka chose for cover did not allow him to see where his partner was or what was happening around him.

According to the Sun, everything that happened in the vacant lot all took place in about 8 seconds, maybe less.

8 seconds Bennett Place_LI

New News

Suiter and Bomenka split up, and Suiter headed to the lot. It’s not clear why they separated or what was said between the two prior to Suiter walking to the lot.  Sources said that video shows Suiter “pacing” near the lot’s opening before heading into the blind spot, gun drawn, the article claims.

Start the 8 second countdown clock at about 4:30 pm: Shots rang out. Bomenka took cover. WScreenshot (443)e can assume all three came in quick order. Bomenka called 9-1-1. Officers arrive on the scene.  With back up, Bomenka checks on his partner and finds him face down, struggling for this life. Social media picks up scanner call and alerts the public at 4:41 p.m. that a Baltimore City Police officer has been shot.

Entrance and Exit wounds.

According to a 10 year study by the National Institute of Health in 2012, gunshot wounds related to suicide have very specific characteristics. In all honesty, suicide attempts are not something most people would want to get wrong. This is especially true for “Suicide Theorists” in the Suiter matter.  The Sun’s article suggests that Suiter would want to stage his suicide to appear like a homicide in order to provide benefits for his family.  Having a partner nearby, with potential life-saving medical treatment, is one aspect that makes this theory unlikely. The location of the self-inflicted shot is crucial since medical help would likely to arrive within minutes.

Most favorable handgun locations due to effectivenes are as follows:  right temple (about 67%), followed by the mouth (16%), forehead (7%), left temple (6%), under the chin (2%), and body region (1%).  Even if staging his death to appear a homicide, the back of the head is a difficult and peculiar choice.  Suiter would have been just as effective to suggest he was murdered with his own gun with a shot to the forehead.  Better yet, he would have used a random gun, not his service weapon if he wanted to fool the cops.

“..the bullet…entered behind [Suiter’s] right ear and traveled forward, exiting from his left temple. The path of the bullet is not typical of a suicide, some note.

–Baltimore Sun, March 22, 2018

Suiter was discovered face down and his gun was located under his body.

The location the weapon after shooting one’s self is pretty predictable.  In another National Institute of Heath 1999 study, the location of the gun really depends on the position of the body at the time of the shooting.

“The gun had a greater chance of remaining in the deceased’s hand if the person was lying or sitting when the gunshot wound was received”.  In this study,  the location of the gun also depends on the gender.

In 69% of the cases, the gun was on or near the body but not in the hand (i.e., touching the body or within 30 cm of the body). The gun was found >30 cm from the body in the remaining 7% of cases. In the case of handguns, the gun was found in the hand in 25.7% of individuals.

Other “new news” include that the initial reports to look for an “injured suspect” was unfounded.  The two instances of blood at the scene was  was attributed to an animal and from a person they cleared as being not related to the case.

The last clarification the Sun offered was that the bullet that killed Suiter was discovered on Monday, Nov 20,  five days after the shooting. It was “embedded in the dirt” in a yet to be disclosed location relative to where his body was found.  Results of the autopsy gave investigators insight into where to look for the fatal bullet.

Old News

  • Det. Bomenka provided a suspect description of a black man wearing a black jacket with a white stripe based on a person he said that he and Suiter both saw 20 minutes before the shooting.
  • Three shots were fired from Suiter’s gun, including the fatal shot.
  • Suiter’s clothes were dirty and disheveled clothing suggesting a violent struggle.
  • Suiter’s radio was still in his hand, although under his body.
  • Suiter’s voice was heard on a radio transmission.

Finally, Mayor Catherine Pugh was not mentioned in the article, but continues to express confidence in Commissioner Darryl De Sousa. In early March, she mentioned that the panel he is convening to look into BPD corruption would also include Suiter.  She recounted conversations she has had with his widow and that the family wants the truth.  Still Mayor Pugh nixed the state’s offer of a commission to review corruption related to newly disclosed criminal activity organized by members of BPD’s Gun Trace Task Force.

Suiter worked closely with Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) officers and was notably scheduled to be a fed witness the day he died.  The Sun’s article did not delve into witness intimidation or executions associated with recent trials as potential theories for a motive behind Suiter’s death.

The  Shropshire, Wells et als, court case is credited for bringing down GTTF and in January struggled with witness intimidation concerns.  The judge took extraordinary measures to restrict cell phone use.  A former BPD member who was a Philadelphia police officer and who is currently awaiting trial is being held in custody because of threats.  The court determined that Officer Eric Snell had threatened the life of the children of ex-GTTF officer Det. Jamell Rayam when he was scheduled to testify as government witnesses.

If actions fall true to form, BPD will hold a late Friday press conference pronouncing the end of the investigation and the case solved.  “We couldn’t find the assailant” they’ll likely say because “Suiter committed suicide.”  With those few words, BPD will move toward clearing their record for a dangling unsolved murder of one of its own.  It will also leave every resident doubtful that BPD could or should be ever trusted to investigate itself.

Also likely, The Baltimore Sun will regrettably look back on its decision to pave the way for the “suicide” declaration with its use of anonymous sources,  And when it’s too late, recognize that in doing so – see its role in delaying  justice for Det. Sean Suiter and his family.  And Kevin Rector and Justin Fenton won’t have the cover of anonymity.