When police found Detective Sean Suiter shot dead in Harlem Park last November, they cordoned off the neighborhood as they searched for the shooter. Residents had to show ID to get in or out.
So residents were shocked at Wednesday’s announcement that Suiter’s death was likely a suicide.
“I don’t believe that officer committed suicide,” said Melvin Tenney sitting on his stoop outside his house on Bennett Place—across the street from the vacant lot where officials say Suiter took his own life.
“Why would he fire off three rounds? And another thing, he had to go to court the next day against some other police officers.”
Suiter was to testify in the Gun Trace Task Force trial about information regarding former-Detective Wayne Jenkins--who had already pleaded guilty.
Down the street, Kevin Davis leaves a convenient store at the corner of Bennett and North Fremont streets. The report left him with unanswered questions about Suiter’s death.
“Why he take his own life while working on the job?” Davis asked. “I don’t understand that and he has six kids. Why would he take his life?”
Suiter had five kids.
Glen Wardell is finishing repairs on one of the many homes he rents out on this block. He said his tenants and other neighbors were scared to leave their homes for days following the neighborhood lockdown.
“You have people like these people are my clients they’re scared to come outside because of the reporters and the newspaper saying we got killers on the loose,” said Wardell.
Wardell, like many in this neighborhood, says they can’t trust the police.
“This guy end up committing suicide, but yet because you put out this false information because you didn’t do your background right,” said Wardell. “You jump to conclusions to give the city and everyone an explanation you’re wrong, it’s like terrorism.”
At her regular Wednesday press conference, Mayor Catherine Pugh reiterated her condolences for Suiter’s family and her apology to residents of Harlem Park.
“I’m as disappointed as anybody that one, the Harlem Park community was held to this kind of infliction as it relates to how the community was held at bay to get into their homes,” said Pugh.
Following Suiter’s death, the report says former-Police Commissioner Kevin Davis falsely told the public that there was a suspect on the loose, announced a $214,000 reward for anyone who could provide information to capture the suspect, and cordoned off the neighborhood to search for the suspect. At the time, Pugh says she was unaware of that information being false.
“Having read the report there is information I did not get absolutely,” said Pugh.
Pugh emphasized the need to reform the department through the current consent decree and using recommendations from the report.
“We will be under a consent decree until the changes are made that brings about the confidence that this community needs to have in its police department,” said Pugh.
Back in Harlem Park, Jean Snowden, a resident of the nearby Upton neighborhood, said the department needs to make amends.
“People expect the truth of us, we expect the truth of them,” said Snowden. “If better relations is going to be had with citizens in Baltimore City and the Baltimore City Police Department, of course they should come clean.”
Despite the report’s findings the police investigation into Suiter’ death remains open.