Baltimore waiting for reply from FBI in unsolved killing

AP News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2017 5:22 PM

BALTIMORE (AP) — Federal authorities have yet to respond to the Baltimore police commissioner's request that the FBI take over his department's investigation of the homicide of a city detective who was shot the day before he was to testify before a federal grand jury probing wrongdoing by a disbanded unit of indicted former officers.

It's been nearly two weeks since Police Commissioner Kevin Davis made the formal request to FBI Director Chris Wray, but spokesmen for the FBI and Baltimore's police force said Wednesday that they have no information on any response.

There have been no arrests, despite a $215,000 reward. Some have speculated that Detective Sean Suiter was done in by corrupt colleagues, or perhaps staged a suicide appear like a killing.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said at her weekly press briefing that the city will keep pushing for the FBI to take over the unsolved investigation. That's what Suiter's widow, Nicole, wants as well, the mayor said.

"She would like for the FBI to step into this case," Pugh said after speaking with her.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during a stopover in Baltimore on Tuesday to discuss immigration and gangs, told reporters that the FBI "will probably be able to act on" the police request. But Sessions offered no specifics and it's far from clear whether the agency Sessions oversees will agree. FBI agents and other federal authorities have been assisting Baltimore police in the probe for weeks.

Suiter was shot in the head Nov. 15 with his own gun while investigating a 2016 triple homicide with his partner in a high-crime neighborhood. The shooting happened in a vacant lot between two row houses. The commissioner has said his department has no reason to believe Suiter's death was connected to his pending testimony, but he also has stressed that investigators are not ruling out anything.

In his Dec. 1 letter to the FBI director, Davis said the homicide probe is "significantly complicated by the fact that he was to appear before a grand jury the following day."

"I am growing increasingly uncomfortable that my homicide detectives do not know all of the facts known to the FBI or the U.S. attorney's office that could, if revealed to us, assist in furthering this murder investigation," he wrote.

The commissioner's request is "incredibly unusual," said Ron Hosko, a former FBI assistant director who is now president of the Virginia-based Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. He said the FBI would like to help local law enforcement colleagues, but must consider its mandate.

"On the face of this tragedy, there's not a federal crime, there's a local murder," said Hosko. If the FBI agrees to take on a case without clear predication such as a federal crime, plot or security threat, he said it could lead agents having to handle "other questionable cases" whenever local departments have "hot potato" investigations.

Davis said during a Dec. 1 press conference that his investigators were continuing to "ensure that every shred of evidence has been examined ad nauseam until that time that the FBI tells us that they want to take the lead on this investigation."

Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said in a Wednesday email that "our detectives are continuing to investigate."

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David McFadden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dmcfadd