The search for a suspect in the killing of Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter continued Friday, with the reward increasing to nearly $190,000 and investigators struggling to determine the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Tactical operations were expected to continue through the weekend in the area of West Baltimore where the officer was shot about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, police said. Police said they were pursuing leads but have not determined the identity of a suspect. They were still working to clarify even the sequence of events that led to Suiter’s shooting.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis confirmed that “more than one” shot was fired from Suiter’s service weapon, which was recovered from the scene. Police have not ruled out the possibility that the veteran officer was killed with his own gun.
“We’re not ruling anything out,” Davis said.
Police have said Suiter, 43, was conducting follow-up investigation on a triple homicide when he saw someone acting suspiciously in a vacant lot and approached. The detective, a married father of five, was shot once in the head. He was pronounced dead Thursday.
Police confirmed that in the frantic aftermath of the shooting, Suiter was put into a police car to be driven to Maryland Shock Trauma Center as quickly as possible. The vehicle collided with another police car while en route, and Suiter was then loaded into an ambulance and admitted to the hospital.
All ballistic evidence recovered was determined to have come from Suiter’s weapon, Davis said. But police said it was still possible the gunman had a weapon of his own that he took with him when he fled, and that Suiter had fired his weapon himself.
“We only recovered one gun. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a second gun,” Davis said.
He said police continue to believe the suspect may have been injured during the incident and are on alert for anyone seeking medical treatment for an unexplained injury or being treated by friends or family.
Davis said an autopsy of Suiter had not yet been completed, and could offer new clues.
Police do not yet want to open the crime scene to the public, he said.
“We need the ability to go immediately to the crime scene and look at it differently” if new evidence arises, Davis said.
Several dozen officers, some in bulletproof vests and helmets, others in plainclothes, congregated in the neighborhood Friday morning. Officers from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms suited in tactical gear roamed the streets, while an armored vehicle from the Baltimore Police Department also was on the scene.
Three children with backpacks passed the officers on Schroeder Street, in the middle of the police perimeter, and were escorted by a uniformed city police officer toward the yellow police tape. Another city officer told the kids, “Have a good day at school,” as they passed.
Michelle Baker, 47, who lives on Fremont Avenue near Franklin Street, wondered how long the police will remain outside her home.
Police tape was still tied to her front porch and her home was blocked off to traffic, forcing her 17-year-old daughter to walk down to nearby Brune Street to wait for her ride to Frederick Douglass High School. Baker’s 25-year-old son, who works as a manager at Foot Locker, has to show his driver’s license when he returns home at night.
Baker, who works at a rehab facility, has been off the last three days, but is worried about catching a car to work like she normally does.
“I will have to play it by ear,” she said. “It’s not affecting my life, just all the detouring.”
Davis said he visited the neighborhood to speak to residents, and believes they accept the inconvenience.
“To a person, each and every one of them understands why we’re out there and why we’re doing what we need to do,” Davis said. “They don’t want the killer roaming their community either.”
Police said they continued to get tips. The reward for information about the suspect grew by $20,000 on Friday, with Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh pledging the additional money. On Thursday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan offered $100,000. Previously, several federal law enforcement agencies and Metro Crime Stoppers combined resources for a $69,000 reward.
“We’re always one tip away … from breaking this case wide open,” Davis said.
Baker said she feels bad for the officer’s family but expressed frustration that the police resources at the scene of Suiter’s shooting far exceed other shootings in the neighborhood.
“I know they can’t be everywhere,” she said. “It’s sad it happened. It’s sad we experience these killing every single day.”
Davis acknowledged criticism that the size of the reward and effort to find Suiter’s killer far exceeded other killings in a city with more than 300 other homicides this year. The intersection of Bennett Place and Fremont Avenue has been the site of more than a dozen shootings and killings over the past several years.
“When a cop is killed, that goes way beyond that murder. It’s an attack on American policing,” Davis said. “Policing exists to serve our unique democracy, so that’s why the murder of a cop always has been and always will be something that’s absolutely unacceptable in a free society.”
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As the sun set Friday, police lights continued to light up the streets near the area where Suiter was shot. Taylor Andre, 43, ducked below the caution tape cordoning off his street, his 2-year-old daughter in his arms.
Living in the middle of an active crime scene has been a nuisance, Andre said. And he’s “disheartened” to know a suspect has yet to be caught and Davis anticipates a police presence through the weekend.
“You don’t want your kids to be seeing a bunch of police every day,” he said. “But if they’re out here keeping us safe, that’s all that matters.”
Shelly Bell, 31, also lives in an apartment behind the police line. Their constant presence has her feeling unsettled, she said.
With the suspect still on the loose, she said she’s constantly looking over her shoulder and keeps a friend on the phone anytime she’s walking in her neighborhood.
“You’re on edge. You don’t know what to expect. You’re uncomfortable,” she said. “But you still feel a little secure because there’s police outside your house.”