A Baltimore detective killed by a gunman last week was slain a day before he was set to testify in a corruption probe into activities of indicted officers, the city's police commissioner confirmed Wednesday.
Commissioner Kevin Davis announced the news to reporters a week after the detective was shot in the head in a West Baltimore vacant lot. Rumors have been running rampant about the unsolved slaying of Detective Sean Suiter.
The police commissioner's latest revelation will do little to quell speculation. Davis emphasized that Suiter was not the target of any criminal investigation, but he was scheduled to testify before a grand jury "the day after he was murdered."
The Baltimore police and the FBI do not have any evidence to suggest that Suiter's slaying is "part of any conspiracy," according to Davis. But he added "there's nothing we won't consider" and said he understands why there is speculation.
"It certainly makes for great theater," Davis said.
The federal grand jury is investigating a group of Baltimore officers who worked together on a firearms crime task force and have been charged with stealing money, property and narcotics from people over two years. An indictment has described the members of the Gun Trace Task Force, a small unit dedicated to getting illegal guns off Baltimore's streets, as using their position to allegedly threaten the innocent, detain people on false pretenses and steal their money. They are also accused of faking police reports, lying to investigators and defrauding their department.
Davis emphasized that the evidence collected in Suiter's unsolved killing points to a "spontaneous encounter" the homicide detective had with a suspicious man he observed while working in a high-crime neighborhood with his partner. Evidence indicates a violent struggle, Davis said, including a roughly three-second-long radio transmission in which what seem to be gunshots are heard and Suiter appears to be in distress.
Investigators have recovered the detective's gun from the gritty lot where he was shot and have determined that the 18-year veteran of the department was shot with his own weapon. Ballistic tests show that recovered shell casings were matched to the recovered firearm.
An autopsy conducted four days after the attack showed that the gunshot was fired in "close contact" to Suiter's head, Davis said.
Davis knocked down speculation that Suiter's partner might have somehow been involved.
"The fact that we have not yet made an arrest creates an environment for rumors to flourish," he said, adding that "many people" have been interviewed and interrogated.
A reward of $215,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed Suiter.
Suiter was an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department. The 43-year-old died surrounded by his family, including his wife and five children.
Officials said Suiter was a Washington, D.C, native who lived with his family in York, Pennsylvania, about an hour's commute from Baltimore.
Before the shooting, Suiter was investigating a 2016 homicide with a partner in the Bennett Street area, dressed in a typical detective's uniform: a suit with a tie and clearly displayed badge, police said.
The detective approached a man who was acting suspicious and started talking to him, police said. A confrontation ensued, and the shooter fired at Suiter, hitting him in the head, police said.