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.

 

A Chronicle of Indifference: Blood Spilled on Baltimore’s Bennett Place

PROLOGUE

Bennett Place in West Baltimore will forever be ingrained in many peoples’ memories because of the blazoned shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter on a cool clear fall afternoon in 2017.

The aftermath of Suiter’s death was felt immediately with a suspension of Habeas Corpus for the entire Harlem Park neighborhood that has yet to be addressed. And also long term as the shadows of suspicion hang darkly over a department desperate to shine itself in a new light.

Outside of the city, what’s incredulous is how BPD easily discounted that Suiter was shot the evening before he was supposed to show up as a federal witness to snitch on a complicated network of dirty cops.

The closer you get to the city, the debate breaks along racial lines and consequently also those who generally have a high opinion of the agency. They are the ones who grapple with whether or not Suiter committed suicide because he was fearful of the “snitch label” that accompanied testifying or if he himself was dirty.

People seriously entertain that Suiter took a partner with him to Bennett Place to kill himself, but stage it as a homicide, so his family could reap the monetary benefits. 

BPD apologists are quick to point out that if the feds believed it was a hit by dirty cops, they would have taken over the case when BPD asked.

Then there are black people and others who are suspicious of LE and more broadly the criminal justice system in general.  Sean Suiter’s widow and children have not been shy pointing the finger directly at BPD (calling it an “inside job“)  for covering up and in some ways being responsible for his death. Screenshot (1192)While there hasn’t been a murder on Bennett Place since Sean Suiter’s, there has been plenty of violent murders prior.

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ScreenGrab Baltimore Sun May 2019

Part I

Historically Bennett Place has suffered from bad press since the 1960s when redlining and later public housing would make the one block stretch a tinder box of discontent. Even today soon as the heat from the national attention from Suiter’s death dissipated, the department for sure and consequently local media seem content to let it fade from memory.

What follows is a timeline of connected activity spurred by politics, hubris, neglect, bias, intimidation and fear. At the center of it all is the Baltimore City Police department (BPD, an illegitimate agency that ought to be disbanded.

Summer 2013

Experimenting with a Police State. Baltimore police under PC Anthony Batts erected metal gates restricting entry and exit to the 900 block of Bennett Place in response to two recent fatal shootings.  A mobile unit was stationed nearby staffed by a dedicated officer. This was presented in news as normal reaction.

The victims were Maurice Taylor, 37 and Joshua Billingsley, 26.  Neither death was reported to be gang related. The corner store, UAC Food Mart, was equipped with 20 video cameras. Store owner Chris Akpala behind bullet proof glass was known to post on his walls “wanted” pictures captured from his cameras of known troublemakers in the neighborhood, according to Baltimore Sun.

gated community

Summer 2015

Chaos Ushers In the Feds. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired PC Batts and promoted Kevin Davis in the aftermath of the demonstrations that followed the death of Freddie Gray who lived in the Harlem Park vicinity.

Property damage was minimal save the cable news stations’ looping on a burned CVS store in Penn North. But the DEA said 27 pharmacies ( a staggering one third of ALL pharmacies located in the city) were looted totaling 315,000 doses – nearly half of which were schedule II drugs like opioids, the Sun reported. It was later discovered that a dirty BPD sold looted drugs to return back to the streets

BPD imposed a work slowdown in West Baltimore, in protest to the uprising and the political climate that resulted in six officers being charged with Gray’s homicide.

(Later, the officers’ attorneys challenged the ME’s finding of homicide, preferring instead to to call it an accident resulting from Gray intentionally thrashing himself inside the transport van). This theory has been debunked in a popular Undisclosed podcast.

Nonetheless, signs of life sprung up in Harlem Park in wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray after the uprising.

At the request of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, on the heels of the unrest, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began its yearlong investigation into BPD’s patterns and practices regarding claims of civil rights abuses.

Summer 2016

Feds Nab Dirty BPD on a Wiretap. Gun violence and drug overdoes spiked to record numbers.  Fentanyl deaths were up 86% in Maryland.  Baltimore States Attorney dropped all charges on all officers after judge acquitted Lt. Brian Rice of involuntary manslaughter charges. BPD’s work slowdown continued fatally impacting West Baltimore.

In the meantime, feds were listening in on a wiretap and caught a BPD officer discussing using a personal GPS device to make sure a suspected drug dealer wasn’t in his home in order to assist a rival drug dealer in a burglary.  A woman, in bed at the time of the break in,was robbed by a masked BPD officer at gunpoint.

While building the drug case, feds stumbled upon members of a specialized BPD unit called the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) committing and covering up robberies, drug deals and overtime fraud.

Also, the DOJ issued its findings in a scathing report outlined a pattern of constitutional violations which would lead to the city consenting to reform itself under court supervision.

Sunday December 4, 2016

The Triple Murder That Brought Suiter to Bennett Place. Residents in 900 block of Bennett Place called 911 about 3 am to report sounds of gunfire.  Baltimore Police responded and left.

Though concerned all morning, residents of 900 block of Bennett Place waited to call Baltimore Fire Department and someone requested a welfare check. Fire officials found a body and called BPD.

Police located three deceased black males in a boarded up house at 5:45 pm.  Sean Suiter, reportedly the detective assigned to the case, returned to the scene multiple times, the final time was nearly a full year later on the day he was killed.

Monday December 5, 2016

BPD labeled the murder victims as “targeted” (instead of random) and proclaimed them to be Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) gang members (an oft used tactic). Once labeled gang related, the triple murder became less palatable to suburban paid subscribers. The methods LE use to link people to gangs is controversial.

Saturday December 10, 2016

Police publicly identify the victims as Antonio Davis, 23; Howard Banks ,45 and Thomas Carter, 42.  Police’s public outreach to solve this murder was minimal based on the messaging delivered by BPD spokesperson T. J. Smith.

2017 Sean Suiter’s world collides with the fate of GTTF

 

January 2017

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. The new administration under the leadership of DOJ Secretary Jeff Sessions produced a consent decree to the Baltimore City and the Police Department that mandated sweeping and costly reforms.

Catherine Pugh was also inaugurated as the city’s next mayor. Rawlings-Blake did not seek re-election.

March 1, 2017

Seven Baltimore Police officers, linked to the specialized unit (GTTF), were arrested as feds announced a sordid criminal conspiracy indictment involving crimes that went back at least a decade and some capers as recent as mere days before their actual arrest.


Part II : Accusation Sean Suiter unknowingly planted evidence with GTTF and sent two innocent men to prison; BPD’s coordinated a suppression of liberty and freedoms with aid of a complicit media in the week-long lockdown of Harlem Park

Part III: Whispers of suicide in BPD’s bought and paid for panel of independent experts reviewing the agency’s investigation of Suiter’s death and the unraveling of the IRB report

The “Confession” Tape: The Death of Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio

Towson, MD – Once 16-year old Dawnta Harris made a u-turn in the cul-de-sac, officer Amy Caprio, 29, exited her patrol car. She walked in front of the 2016 off road Jeep Wrangler as it was moving, gun drawn.

The Jeep came to a stop. What happened next took probably less than a minute. Harris told Baltimore County homicide detective Alvin Barton the whole story during a 14 hour interrogation captured on video tape.

Caprio died from blunt force injuries in June 2018 when responding to a suspicious vehicle call in a residential neighborhood in the Baltimore suburb of White Marsh, MD.

The young, slightly built Baltimore County officer aimed her service weapon at driver window and ordered Dawnta out of the vehicle.  She stood directly in front of the Jeep with her gun pointed at him, blocking his only escape path.

“Get out of the fucking car” she yelled.

“I was too scared to get out,” he said during interrogation later that same day.

Dawnta said he only saw the officer once, a brief glance.  He saw the gun pointed at him.

A condensed version (three hours) of the 9+ hour video taped statement was played in a packed Towson courtroom Friday, April 26.

“Once I seen the gun I put my head down. For about 5 seconds.”

dawnta
Dawnta Harris, a 9th grader and resident of West Baltimore’s Gilmor Homes in an undated photo.

Dawnta kept his eyes closed tight and his head ducked, in fear of the officer with the gun. His heart and mind were racing.

He opened the door slowly. The body worn camera showed Caprio slowing moving sideways as the door opened.  She had just called in the license plate. She died not knowing the Jeep was stolen or that three of  the occupants earlier that day had committed a burglary.

Caprio stood behind her car, with cover, and with a better view of the door as it opened, no longer in the path of the Jeep.  Dawnta told Det. Alvin Barton that the officer was yelling something, but he couldn’t understand what exactly.

“I put my hands on the steering wheel,” is what he did next when asked.

“I was asking myself, what should I do? What should I do?” Dawnta said kind of frantically.

With a heavy sigh, he told the seasoned investigator, “Nothing came up.”

He repeated despondently, “Nothing came up.”

He closed the driver’s side door, still crouched down and with his eyes closed. The opening and closing of the door as he stated was seen on the officer’s recovered body worn camera video.

Then Caprio moved from behind her car back to her original position directly in front of the Jeep, as seen in the video.

Dawnta told Det. Barton he didn’t want to get arrested for the burglaries that he didn’t take part in.  He had been trying to avoid trouble all day with people he barely knew.

Barton told him he seemed like a good kid. In court he testified that the teen seemed intelligent and calm.

Without warning, a gunshot whizzed over the 16 year old’s head. Glass shattered around him.

Startled, Dawnta, put his foot on the gas. He was driving blindly. The car moved slowly.  On the BWC video, the car didn’t jerk, or burn rubber at a high rate of speed.

With his eyes closed he took a chance, Dawnta said. He was stuck with no good options for the 16 year old.

“I didn’t know if I was going to crash, hit her or get shot.”

After he got out of the cul-de-sac he didn’t look back.  “I didn’t know I hit her.”

The 5′ 7″ 120 pound soft spoken kid abandoned the Jeep about five minutes away from where Caprio was last seen standing. He shook the glass from the shattered rear window from his hair and tried calling other three boys on his cell phone.  Then he did the improbable.

In about 15 minutes, he was back to the same street, this time on foot with police cars swirling around.  He was stopped, questioned, and taken into custody.

Media coverage was racially-tinged common once mugshots of the four black teens are released.  Predictably, the arrest of the four boys evoked vitriol on media outlets’ online publications and across social media platforms.

The jury deliberated on Monday April 30th in the afternoon on felony murder charges. It’s the catchall charge when prosecutors fear that the bar of premeditation that comes with  first degree murder is way to high.

It’s a controversial charge. Many defendants have had their convictions of felony murder overturned. In short, prosecutors are not focused on the elements of the murder, but the accompanying burglary.

So, if the jury of three black men find that a property crime occurred (a felony, but not nearly as serious as a crime against a person), then a person can be sent to prison for any homicide that is associated with that related felony.

 

Who Orders Pizza During a Home Invasion? The Missing Link in the Chain to Convict the Mansion Murderer

The #QuadrupleMurder trial will prove beyond all doubt that Daron Wint is a liar. But the biggest whopper of them all may very well be the one he told to wriggle out from under blanket felony murder charges.

The first 48 hours of a high-profile homicide case during a nonstop 24-hour news cycle can be an eternity for politicians thrust in front of cameras.

Home invasions isn’t something that commonly happens in prestigious Northwest DC. It might as well be a different planet than the life described by a parade of witnesses who testified about working at restaurants, as day laborers, a personal assistant/gopher, or semi-skilled manual labor jobs.

Worlds would collide by Thursday May 14, 2015.

The haves:  Savvos, 47, and Amy, 46,  Savopoulos, and their 10-year old son Philip were brutally murdered as was the family’s housekeeper. Vera Figueroa , 57.  The non English speaking domestic was considering retiring according to her husband Bernardo Alfaro.

A have not: The sole suspect, Daron Wint, of Lanham, MD nabbed by a profile that includes him (and all male relatives) to a profile obtained on a pizza crust left behind.Screenshot (976)Investigators first believed it was a mundane fire that quickly became a quadruple murder, then revealed itself to be an in-home kidnapping – all kicked off by a violent home invasion. And in between,  the state would have jurors believe Wint got his captive, Amy Savopoulos to order two pizzas and one can of soda.

The adults showed evidence of blunt force trauma, some also stabbing, others asphyxiation.  Close to the end of the ordeal, there was a sense of panic and desperation that culminated in a haphazardly dousing of gasoline that effectively only burned and destroyed Bedroom 2 where Philip was recovered. Bedroom 1, where firefighters discovered a “bloodbath” still showed in photographs a baseball bat that was bright red with blood.

If anything was going to solve the case (and in a hurry), it would be DNA.  People shed layers of skin every hour. Unless the perpetrator(s) wore full body latex suits, it’s highly unlikely that they could have been in the house for over 18 hours and not leave a trace of being there, no matter how many pairs of gloves they wore.

By the prosecutor’s count, there were three adult victims, one child and one perpetrator when the pizza was ordered at 9:14 pm on May 13 as they settled in before a flurry of phone calls began about 7 am to arrange a cash withdrawal using electronic signatures for Savvas. Young Philip’s DNA was found on the mouth of a bottle of water.  (The soda can was never brought up as evidence by any technician working the scene).

The photo of the remaining corner of uneaten pizza has a story of its own to tell. It’s not difficult to suppose that either by accident or by intention that DNA that points to Daron Wint was placed on the crust.

It’s been said that successes have many fathers while failure is a bastard. It’s suspicious in itself that no one person has taken credit for : 1. finding the crust 2. deciding to go against policy, take a risk, and test it anyway.

 

 

With the clock ticking, the second 48 hours began with a decision to work into the weekend, acknowledging the pressure to solve a high profile case, officials testified. Below is a series of events uncovered with expert testimony, mainly from Emily Head, ATF forensic biologist, the forensic lead on the case. She has multiple degrees and six years of experience.

Q: How did Emily Head become the lead of the forensic’s team?
I was the only one there working. It was a Saturday.

Q: What was your plan for the day?  
The plan then was to go to the Savapoulos house. We were told there was a pizza crust at the scene.

(Prosecutor pauses seemingly taken aback by the second part of the answer, but he forges ahead, he himself appearing unaware of the answer)

Q: Who told you?
I don’t know who told me.  But I had high expectations of getting a DNA profile.

(A curious response since the department’s policy at that time was not to test perishable items at all).

Q: Who was there?
ATF and Metro PD were on the scene when we arrived, along with Task Force Officer Michael Pravera.

Q: What did you do first?
We had to wait before given entry. I’m not entirely sure why.

(Maybe someone was tampering with the evidence).

After surveying the premises starting at the basement, Emily Head was given a brown paper bag like you would get from Safeway containing the discarded pizza. What follows is a summation of her actions:

  • Examination and swabbing of the pizza crust took place inside the Savopoulos’ house on the second floor in the room identified as the office where two days before over 100 firefighters were on the scene, many of them maneuvering and clearing spaces on their hands and knees.
  • Brown butcher-type paper was spread out and the pizza was dumped on the paper.
  • Two swabs were taken: one from the top of the pizza where it had been bitten and another from underneath of the uneaten portion of pizza.
  • She swabbed the crust that day and by Wednesday luckily, the saliva was sufficient to create a DNA profile. Her intuition was spot on.

The good luck continued.

A database search came up with a name of an individual who had a close enough profile for police to broadcast a break in the case!  They named a suspect: Daron Dillon Wint.  The address the police had was for Daron’s stepmother and father.  They permitted police to enter and search the house including the crawlspace area where they told Daron he could store his belongings. Daron though had gone to New York a few days prior.  He left a phone number where he could be reached, mainly because he was expecting a call back from an immigration attorney.

Court and arrest records also reveal both Daron and a brother (Darrell Wint) who he claims to have committed the crime, have criminal histories.  Since they both have the mother and father, when compared to the DNA profile from the pizza – statistically speaking, neither would be able to be excluded as the contributor.

Once captured a cheek swab was taken directly from Daron Wint to test against the profile recovered from the pizza crust.

With new crusty evidence, a timeline started to emerge.  Police theorize the crime began a day earlier on May 13.  At least as early as 9:14 pm when a call came in to Domino’s Pizza for a delivery: two pizzas and a can of soda.

A soda can have not been entered into evidence.

The instructions were to leave the pizza at the front door.  A female caller who sounded to be about 20-30 years old paid for the pizza using a credit card and also included a $5 tip.  Media reports have said the man described the house as dark and that he followed the instructions and left.

The pizza deliveryman did not testify.

The 17-year Domino’s employee, who took the call, testified that the number that called in the order showed up on their system as being a previous customer with the address and prior instructions. The phone number used was clearly observable on the box,  and so was the prior instruction: Ring the Bell.  Roland Chase, who still works for Dominos but now in Florida (he drove up to give his testimony) recalls giving verbal instructions to the pizza delivery guy to simply leave the pizza and walk away.

Media reports have reflected that the pizza delivery guy was left an envelope with a tip. This contradicts Chase’s testimony that the pizza and the tip was paid for via a credit card over the phone.

Who Doesn’t Like Pizza?

In his defense, family members and a flashy attorney who was seeking the job proclaimed that Daron Wint never ate pizza because he didn’t like it. Case closed. Next suspect. Not surprisingly, he became the butt of many jokes and investigators continued to build its case and h

In opening statements, defense attorneys told the jury that Wint did in fact eat the pizza. Making his family liars.  That he ate the pizza in a house where a major crime was taking place unbeknownst to him — is an admission that is very tough to swallow.

Perhaps Daron Wint believed that copping to a small transgression (eating the pizza) would lesson his culpability.  Maybe he thought he knew no evidence existed to connect him directly to swinging the bats or burning the bodies so admitting to eating the pizza would take the heat off of him.

But if it was a lie.  If he never ate the pizza and his defense still permitted him to mislead the jury, that would insert a needless link in a chain that could hang him for these murders.

It could be the biggest lie he told in this sordid story.  In order for jury to  convict him of felony murder all they needed to believe beyond a reasonable doubt, was that he was in the house while the kidnapping and murder was occurring.

Almost every aspect of this trial illuminates tremendous failings of this country’s criminal justice system.

 

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.”

Screenshot (963)

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.

Screenshot (966).png

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.

Screenshot (936)
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.

Screenshot (964)

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.

Judge says Baltimore Police Too Big to Fail, But that Ship Might Not Hold Water

Baltimore.

Not quite Charm City.

Far from Bodymore, Murderland.

A town with an abundance of big city problems – much more like, Small-timore.

Members of AFSCME Local 1195 Baltimore, Maryland Police Union strike in 1969.
BPD walked off the job in 1974 even after gaining widespread protections in passage of the state’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBR) in 1972.  Pushback prevented collective bargaining until 1982 leading to today’s FOP3.

Baltimore is big on grit, tenacity, history, humor all blended together to make for a special brand of what some call charm.  Tinged by the threatening cloud hovering over the major sports stadiums and scaring away any potential corporate growth is the city’s biggest budget item: The Baltimore Police Department.

The Problem

Baltimore’s Police Department is too big – to fail.  Yeah, just like the banks that suckered people into mortgages they could not afford, made a ca-billion dollars by packaging the loans together, disguising their value, and getting taxpayers to bail them out when their balance sheets couldn’t add up.

Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar in his remarks Thursday during the second quarterly update by the parties involved in Consent Decree declared (Small-timore) Police Department too big to fail.  The analogies didn’t stop there.

Judge Bredar was clearly no fan of BPD at any point while negotiating the Consent Decree between the feds and the city and then selecting a monitoring team to oversee the process.  Furthermore, he is set to spend the next 5-10 years enforcing the decree to fix the ails (Monitoring Team points to “decades of neglect and mismanagement”) that DOJ uncovered when it pulled back the covers of BPD following the in custody death of Freddie Gray.

Still after witnessing all the ugliness festering inside a racist institution with little challenge for generations, Bredar then was subjected to a month long trial with sordid tales of murder, drug dealing, robberies, and the efforts to cover up the crimes while working as special unit detectives with the Baltimore Police dept.  Bredar spits out each letter of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) like he’s riding himself of the taste of a bad peanut at an Orioles game.

bs-md-ci-bredar-profile-20170112
Judge James K. Bredar. Undated Photo. Presumably 10 year old. caption

Even this judge, with all that he has seen, is not in favor of disbanding BPD and starting over.  This city is not Camden, New Jersey he said.

“It’s not going to happen” said Bredar. There will be no fourth quarter “hail Mary pass” by way of a magical fix to the dept’s woes.  Anything other than sticking to the course set forward by the Monitoring Team is an “infeasible concept.”

At times the Judge appeared at a lost, but nonetheless compelled to dole out some measure of encouragement. For instance, he liked Solicitor Andre Davis’ oratory skills. Maybe how his forced sincerity bounced off the portraits hanging on the chamber walls.

With a proverbial pat on his head, Judge acknowledged how interim BPD Commissioner Gary Tuggle is pressing forward meeting deadline after deadline in drafting  policies that most likely eventually be tossed in the trash. Bredar expects whoever eventually takes over the helm, and rightfully so, would want his or her stamp on the process. Mayor Catherine Pugh did not attend this day long hearing. At the first hearing she and DeSousa left immediately after giving their opening remarks.

“BPD is the only police department that going to police the city of Baltimore – especially in my lifetime,” said Bredar.

Even with his commitment to the institution, the the judge ticks off significant if not insurmountable wrongs with BPD namely:

BPD has no commissioner. It’s had three in first six months of the year. Depending on the analogy of the day, the department lacks a construction foreman, compass on a barn, rudder on a ship, architect with blueprints, pilot with a flight plan,  foundation to a skyscraper – it’s become quite comical as new ones crop up.

City Solicitor Andre Davis said 10 resumes have been submitted after a nationwide posting and efforts were being made to replace former Commissioner Darryl DeSousa chosen by Pugh, who resigned  four months into the job after admitting to failing to file his taxes for multiple years.  Davis  attempted to assure the judge that the “flight plan” that the city has put forth using the Police Research Forum to aid in selection of the next commissioner will have one in place by Halloween.

Judge Bredar’s concerns were not assuaged.  “Sooner than that I hope,” he said. Everyday there is one or two negative things in the press.  He pointed to the officer arrested that week in Baltimore County county on charges of selling prescription narcotics.

“I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions” the Judge said. And then slightly under his breath,  “I don’t always make the popular decision.”

While claiming BPD is too big to fail in his eyes, Bredar had little difficulty often pointing out the department’s numerous and substantial umm, failures:

  • Staffing shortages
  • Stalled union negotiations
  • Fiscal constraints
  • Void in technology infrastructure
  • Lack of leadership
  • Deft of public trust

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which houses Internal Affairs Department (IAD) is a revolving door of people in command with no policy to implement and not captain to steer the ship.  The department said the judge is an “essential organ in a healthy police body.”

“I suggest there are no more critical questions than one, who will be the next commissioner and two does that person have what it takes to lead the department out of the wilderness.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) chimed in with its own concerns of the “capacity” the department has to make any changes. Along with being the “complainant” in the Consent Decree urging reform, the DOJ is participating with other federal agencies on four ongoing investigations of BPD:

  1. The death of Det. Sean Suiter
  2. Accusations of rushing recruits through the Academy
  3. BPD’s role in revelations uncovered by the GTTF trial
  4. Allegations that an officer lied on the stand in a criminal matter

Problems to Come

Suffering from a back ailment, Judge Bredar often looked uncomfortable at the bench. He said he is bracing himself on the results of the full investigation of BPD’s actions during last year’s Harlem Park lock down.  Citizens implored government intervention to no avail with pleas of #FreeWestBaltimore.  After Det. Sean Suiter was shot on in Nov 15, 2017, BPD all but suspended the Constitution by erecting an expanded perimeter that kept innocent people virtually prisoners in their homes.  Then commissioner Kevin Davis swatted away concerns of violations excusing them in favor of a pressing murder investigation.

Judge Bredar took particular exception to command’s reaction.  Noting it is in exactly times of stress and upheaval that training, adherence to policy and procedure is needed and must be adhered to. Baltimore failed.

The media and others did not recognize that it wasn’t just Harlem Park who suffered when then Commissioner Kevin Davis displayed a utter breakdown in his failure to lead, the entire department and therefore all of the citizens experienced a rip in the very fabric of what holds a civilization together. “The fix is at the top of the organization. Right now we don’t have a top,” said Bredar.

Stops and searches went on for nearly a week after Suiter’s murder. People were detained, some where brought into police station, most without their consent and questioned. One officer out of the multitude that ascended to 900 block of Bennett Place had activated her body worn camera capturing two hours of footage.

Children were kept out of school. Some were even given written passes permitting their travel in and around certain neighborhoods.

“The verdict’s not in” but in talks with the monitoring team “My suspicion is that it’s going to be disturbing.”

 

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.

Trumped Up Charges: Convincing the Public Det Suiter’s Death Was Suicide

A vacant lot in West Baltimore is the absolute last place a Baltimore City Police officer would choose to die. Ask any of them.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s focus on both the how and why the Baltimore Police would suggest otherwise.  A review of several notable events will show that BPD has everything to gain and very little to lose if Det. Sean Suiter’s shooting death was changed from a homicide to a suicide.

sean suiter headshot
Det. Sean Suiter

The Evidence As We Know It

BPD has been extraordinarily tight lipped about the investigation from day one.  We’ve been lead to believe not much exists to help solve the case.  A lack of forensic evidence: no DNA lifted from Suiter’s clothing. Nothing recovered from the gun used to shoot him and an eyewitness description of the assailant that should no longer be considered as viable.

Murder Weapon

What is not in dispute is that the 18-year veteran suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head.  Three (or four) shots were fired, with at one to the head, occurring in a garbage-strewn lot where a vacant building used to stand.  While BPD insists the shot came from his own service weapon, no evidence has been put forth to substantiate this claim.  Suiter’s hands were wiped clean.

No tests exists to prove that the bullet “found” a week after the shooting was the one that killed Suiter.  Nor is there any proof that the gun found under his body once patrol arrived is the same gun that fired the bullet that killed him. The gun was retrieved in a patrol car some hours later after the Suiter was removed from the scene/

Reportedly, Suiter and his partner were on Bennett Place following up on a year-old homicide. He was shot at about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday November 15, 2017 with no witnesses to the shooting.  If we are to believe his partner Det. David Bomenka (and there’s not reason anyone should) and his recollection of seeing a suspicious person about 20 minutes before the shooting, we can put them scene since as early as 4 pm.

 

suiter 2 cadets
Police cadets canvass neighborhoods seeking assistance in solving Suiter’s murder.

The maddeningly vague description by a seasoned police homicide detective still has watchers scratching their heads.  The suspect (of course) is a black man, wearing a black jacket with a white stripe. A description, presumably provided by the one eyewitness, so vague that it makes one wonder why Commissioner Kevin Davis shared it with the public in the first place.  The suspect description has been fertile ground for conspiracy theorists to sow wild beliefs from day one.  This “description” given by BPD while all other helpful information was withheld from the public is the primary reason BPD has only itself to blame for even why #SuiterTheories is a thing.

black man suspect
Ever ready black male suspect sought.

No age, no height, no weight, was observable by – not just any run-of-the-mill “shook” witness, but a trained  law enforcement officer came up empty on crucial description elements.  However, Bomenka mustered enough cop parlance to say he saw Stuiter struggle with a”black man” who he observed earlier and was “acting suspiciously.”

It’s crucial to also note that  this “description” was not provided to cops responding immediately to the scene.  They were told that there was no suspect description at all!  The next day, a “description” was ultimately provided to the public, and within days, BPD quickly did a re-shuffle and  instructed the public not to consider the black man and black jacket at all because he probably took it off.  Sigh.

Still there was a reward amount, a record high of $215,000.  But we were not asked to look for anyone other than a black man, no age, no height, no build.  Peoples’ suspicion grew.  The eyes of the nation were once again on Baltimore Police Department.

The Timeline

Inexplicably, a timeline of Suiter’s activities for that day was never given.  Maybe he cut someone off  driving and this was a delayed road rage incident.  Someone might have witnessed that. Perhaps someone spotted Suiter at a store he was at earlier, followed him to that location which led to a confrontation or some type of retaliation. Maybe he was sought out by someone who encountered him for a previous arrest or run-in. We’ll never know.  The police have not given any details about what has been ruled out.

Homicide investigations 101 include a timeline of the victim’s activities.  The detectives could have gotten there as early as noon or as late at 4 pm.  But cast that in the huge empty bucket of unknowns. It’s also unknown if they arrived at the same time or in the same car even. Remember, an enticing reward was dangled, but nothing to aid the public to claim it.  BPD never gave the public anything close to a timeline of Suiter’s movements that day to help solve his death as a murder.  It’s almost like it was the city’s first and only murder.

Pretty much everything else has been tainted by innuendo, cloaked in secrecy, and of course, some details Suiter has taken with him to his grave.

Suiter’s Staged “Homicide”

To sell the murder as a suicide, and a staged one at that, BPD will  likely combine a “reasonable motive” along with a description of how Suiter had both the opportunity and skill to pull off a staged homicide.  The theory will center around Suiter’s  apprehension to testify and his desire to leave his five children financially secure. When this is done (with the assistance of compliant media partners), BPD believes it can slam the lid shut on the Det. Suiter death and move forward with the city’s business.  Narrative changed!

The Location

The day before he was set to testify in a federal grand jury case involving corruption in a gun unit at BPD, Suiter along with Det. Bomenka, not his regular partner, set out to West Baltimore.  Bennett Place is a one way westbound residential street that runs parallel to Franklin St and Route 40, which is a major east/west thoroughfare. Schroeder St intersects Franklin St to the north and Fremont Ave crosses it to the south.

It was early in the afternoon a comfortable 45 degrees and cloudy.  People would be walking to and from the neighborhood store, and kids would be coming home from school.

 

 

 

The bustling environment seemed perfect for the why the detectives were out and about  looking for witnesses in order to close a 2016 triple murder case.  The location might not be the best fit for the optimal place to commit a public suicide, but the very next day Suiter was scheduled to give testimony to the grand jury, time was running out.

The Plan

Keeping with the theory, Suiter is there to plan his own death (We assume unbeknownst to Bomenka). With all the activity, Suiter will have to have a series of fortunate events go his way.   BPD has a stake in selling the world on this theory that Suiter’s plan was to die in a urine soaked lot filled with broken bottles and small patches of grass.

The motive they will say is the thing.  Suiter fits the profile (more on this later).

Suicides, accurately and commonly perceived, most likely occurs in isolation. This requires some distance. So (again if Bomeka does not participate in this wildly imaginative concoction of a story), Suiter invents a reason to go behind the wall, perhaps telling Bomenka he has to go relieve himself. When fully out of view, Suiter pops off 2-3 rounds and yells, telling Bomenka to get down or stay back as a ruse.  With no one around to see him,  Suiter pulls on his own clothes to give the impression of a violent struggle. He’s a seasoned cop.  If anyone can stage a crime scene, he can.

Counting on his partner to follow the order, Suiter then takes his gun and reaches behind his head with his right hand and shoots himself, once. He survives the gunshot and is placed on life support until the next day when he is declared dead as a result of his injuries. The medical examiner discounts any speculation that the car accident en route contributed to his death.

NOTE: It’s possible if BPD goes hard with the scenario, Bomenka will be trotted out with new disturbing details that support the suicide theory.

The Motive

Selling the public on the “why” behind concocting such an elaborate hoax will be at the center of scenario of any farce BPD might trot out.  With fancy graphs, data and experts, they will insist that Det. Suiter attempted to stage his death to economically provide for his family.  There won’t be any evidence of this because they would have shared it by now.  Most likely they will point to how Suiter’s situation cozily fits with nationally recognized experts and studies on officers’ suicides.  They’ll talk about PTSD not just for the urban stresses, but they’ll link it back to his tour in Iraq.  It’ll make perfect sense they’ll argue because Suiter will check each of the boxes below:

  • The average age is 42 years old at time of suicide
  • The average time on job was 16 years of service
  • 91% of suicides were by male officers
  • Time on the job when most are most at risk was 15 to 19 years of service
  • Firearms were used in 91.5% of police suicides
  • In 83% of cases, personal problems appear prevalent prior to the suicide

The rationale will be reminiscent of the catch all predictions of a carnival fortune teller: You are seeking the love of your life.  Recently you lost someone close to you.  Something you lost will turn up soon. Yada yada yada.

The conspiracy was fed by the now infamous Thanksgiving holiday  news dump. Davis dropped a bombshell as preparation was underway for Suiter’s funeral. The day of his death, Suiter was supposed to be a federal witness against Baltimore City Police officers.  The video below for the first time discloses Suiter was scheduled to pointing the finger squarely at criminal activity within BPD.  Davis knew this, but here he said he only just found out. Once the feds he been knew, he later said he mis-remembered. This video is a beauty in  diminishing what little credibility and sympathy people were eking our for the department.

Transparency and Accountability

Up until now, first hand accounts are evasive.  Those on the scene have not provided any statements to the public.  Zero statements have been provided by officers who responded to Bomenka’s 9-1-1 call.  We haven’t even heard the call!  Some details has been provided through the media relations person and from the commissioner at the time, Kevin Davis. And even that information has not been reliable.

Dispatch audio notifying officers of the emergency was released and provides the most insight.  Other primary source material promised has not materialized like the audio of Suiter’s voice on radio. Baltimore residents aren’t likely to fall for the okey-doke.  They will demand that information be provided, especially the Body Worn Camera (BWC) footage of responding officers and the full autopsy results.

Remaining Puzzle Pieces

  • Dispatch sent officers to Bennett and Fremont and had difficulty finding the crime scene.
  • Early reports indicate that the male suspect was probably injured.
  • Medical units were advised of a second victim at the scene and aware that Suiter had been transported.
  • No details on Suiter’s accompaniment, a driver, a companion, etc when transported by car to University of Maryland Shock Trauma
  • No details on the car accident encountered en route to hospital.
  • No details on whether Suiter was conscious or if CPR or any medical performed during transport.
  • Officer’s gun and officer’s radio is back in the alley where he got hit, but Suiter gone.
  • Davis in discarded suicide altogether when asking FBI to take over the investigation
  • No shell casings observed at the scene by first responders.

The most crucial element to supporting suicide is that evidence must prove Suiter fired all the shots and there was no struggle for his gun.  This will be the complete opposite of what says said to be known facts for much of the investigation.  Davis has repeated often that  confusion reigned because officers were unsure the direction of the shots. Bomenka was delayed in providing aid because he was seeking shelter across the street.   Also, Davis insisted Suiter was involved in a violent struggle and that possibly the suspect was injured.

They have to explain why they thought the suspect was initially injured, but the casings are key.  Davis took deliberate pains to explain how the return to the scene after the autopsy gave him additional insight. Conveniently when the media cordon was lifted, officers “discovered” a shell casing in clear view of a television camera, completed with mime-quality acting.

Next Man Up – Commissioner Darryl De Sousa

Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she was terminating Kevin Davis from BPD on January 19, citing escalating violence, namely murders in the city.  She never mentioned Davis’ handling of Suiter’s case for cause or even presiding over the department during the FBI investigation that landed an entire special operations unit in the pokey. Instead, she left taxpayers on the hook for his $150,000 severence.

 

pugh and de sousa
Body language of Mayor Catherine Pugh speaks volumes in announcing her appointment to the city’s top cop.

In promoting De Sousa, Mayor Pugh admittedly has not had any lengthy or repetitive conversations with then Commissioner Davis about the investigation into Det. Suiter’s death.  Instead, she cited her impatience with “getting the numbers down.” However,  when she did  view of grainy video prompted her support of the request for the FBI to take over the investigation. The FBI declined.

In the lead up to his eventual confirmation, Commissioner De Sousa told Brian Kuebler in an exclusive interview his plans to have a new set of eyes. The independent agency is a secret, too.  When the reporter asked, very comfortably De Sousa refused to disclose any details without much pushback from the reporter.

As for his views on the death of Suiter, Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said, “I have an idea, but I’m not going to share right now.”

Showing that the more things change, the more they stay really the same.

Bennett SkyView

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