Detective Sean Suiter‘s death while on duty on November 16, 2017 remains a matter of contention to this day.
The Baltimore Police Department detective died from a gunshot wound to the head the day before he was due to testify in court in the Gun Trace Task Force case, whose corruption scandal is explored in HBO‘s We Own This City.
Suiter was shot after he darted into a vacant lot in a neighborhood in West Baltimore. Police later claimed Suiter was shot with his own gun which was found underneath his body, per the Baltimore Sun, and his death was officially ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.
However, an Independent Review Board that later investigated Suiter’s death labelled his death a suicide, something his family have vehemently refuted.
What Have People Said About Sean Suiter’s Death?
In the We Own This City finale, which aired on Monday, May 30, Suiter’s death is depicted in such a way that it does not give a definitive answer as to whether his passing was a homicide or a suicide.
This was something actor Jamie Hector, who portrays Suiter, appreciated about the HBO show, and he told Newsweek: “I feel like the show talks about exactly what it knows about, you know… this is what happened with Sean up until the point that we don’t know what happened to Sean.
“Because we don’t know if he took the money, because we don’t know if this happened, everybody has their own opinion as to what happened. There was a study that was shown leaning in specific directions, right?
“For me personally, because, you know, there was not an eyewitness to the situation and he has a family that has to live with it as well, they did a great job of telling the story as to what happened to Sean.”
Letting the Viewers Decide
The show’s co-creator David Simon added: “I think for the sake of viewers we should just let people experience what the known moments are, what was witnessed, and let people decide as they will.
“If you’re asking me individually… I think fundamentally, once you read the independent reviews, once you walk the ground, once you talk to the investigators, once you look at what was in that file, and what reasons they had for being out there, and what the physical evidence is, this man took his own life.
“It’s not as satisfying, it’s not as dramatic as the idea of him being assassinated because he was going to testify in front of the grand jury, or all the other narratives that you could possibly conjure, but it’s the one that actually fits the evidence.”
The Wire creator went on: “We try to address that while at the same time leaving room for people to understand that it is still an argument in Baltimore, and probably will be forever. It’s one of those deaths that will be.
“I think everyone sees it through the prism of their own politics, maybe even more so than they see through the prism of factual evidence.
“But that said, it’s a tragedy regardless and heart-breaking, because whether or not Suiter had been implicated in things earlier in his career he had moved past that to becoming a competent death investigator, and somebody who wanted to be a cop for the right reasons. But the past came and called on him.”
Evidence Points to Suicide
Per the Baltimore Sun, the Independent Review Board’s report said: “The evidence simply does not support anyone other than Detective Suiter himself firing the fatal shot.
“Nor does the evidence support a conclusion that Detective Suiter fired that shot accidentally. That leaves only this tragic scenario.”
Suiter’s family has refuted this conclusion, and per the publication they said that he was a “well-regarded detective” and that he “was in good spirits in the days and weeks before his death” so he could not have taken his own life.
In October 2020, Suiter’s family received a settlement of $900,000 from the City, and, per FOX45 News, his wife Nicole said: “This settlement is just the beginning of admittance.
“You do not win workers’ compensation cases unless you are injured, hurt or killed while on the job. This to me is the first step to acknowledge that Sean was murdered. The beginning of what my family needs, which is peace of mind. Sean cannot rest in peace until justice is completed.”
In an interview with FOX45 News in December 2021 Jeremy Eldridge, the attorney of Suiter’s family, gave an update after the release of HBO’s documentary about the detective’s death, The Slow Hustle.
He said: “We’re really hoping the Mayor can step in and make sure Sean Suiter’s family can finally have some closure and can finally move on, and we can label this the homicide it always was, just as the chief medical examiner said.”
The lawyer added: “It tells a story that, if Sean Suiter, a good cop, can’t get a fair and just investigation, then what is every other victim to expect?”
‘Didn’t Get the Justice His Family Deserved’
Eldridge also spoke about Suiter’s passing in the documentary, in which he claimed that Suiter “really didn’t get the justice that his family deserved.”
D. Watkins, who is part of the writing team for We Own This City and also appeared in The Slow Hustle, spoke with AFRO News about Suiter’s untimely death in January 2022 and said he thought the detective had been murdered.
Of the investigation into Suiter’s death, he also told the publication: “I’m not going to say it was ignored, but the fact that the attention paid to the death of one of their own wasn’t a top priority for them was strange for me.
“I definitely feel like if it was a White man, it would be totally a completely different story. But, he’s not a White man. He’s a Black man with a Black family.”
We Own This City will be available to watch in full on HBO Max from Tuesday, May 31.
If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.