Baltimore, MD – A federal grand jury indicted a Baltimore police sergeant on Thursday in a case where prosecutors said he planted drugs on a suspect, and used then-Officer Sean Suiter to unwittingly recover them.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis held a press conference and said “what this indictment outlines in great detail is the fact that Sean Suiter wasn’t involved in any way, shape, or form, in any criminal misconduct whatsoever.”
“I know that there has been a lot of speculation and I think that this indictment spells out Officer Suiter’s role seven years ago in this particular case,” Commissioner Davis said.
"Suiter was used and put in a position where he unwittingly recovered drugs planted by another officer, and that's a damn shame. Then-Officer Suiter had nothing to do with planting of evidence and [this] indictment makes it perfectly clear," he said.
Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter was shot on Nov. 15 in a vacant lot in west Baltimore while he and his partner were investigating a homicide from 2016.
Det. Suiter died Nov. 16, the same day he had been scheduled to testify in front of a federal grand jury in their case against Baltimore Police Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, a former member of the Gun Trace Task Force.
In that case, eight Baltimore Police officers were charged with racketeering conspiracy, with allegations that included robbing citizens, falsifying reports, selling seized drugs and guns, participating in home invasions, and earning fraudulent overtime.
The autopsy revealed that Det. Suiter, an 18-year veteran of the police department, was murdered with his own weapon, after a short, violent struggle. Police have no suspects, and the detective remains the only unsolved, line-of-duty murder of an officer in the Baltimore Police Department’s (BPD) history.
Commissioner Davis announced that he’d learned of the murdered detective’s planned grand jury testimony after he was shot.
He has repeatedly said that investigating officers have found no connection between Det. Suiter’s murder and his planned testimony, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young and City Councilman Brandon Scott called for the investigation of Det. Suiter’s death to be turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), possibly over claims that the detective's murder was a police conspiracy.
“An independently conducted investigation would be the quickest way to provide the public and those who loved Det. Suiter with the answers they rightly deserve,” Young and Scott wrote in a letter to Commissioner Davis on Thursday.
But the mayor pushed back, saying the FBI has been involved in the case since the beginning.
The indictment against Sgt. Jenkins is related to an arrest he made with Det. Suiter in 2010.
Then-Officer Suiter was involved in a vehicle pursuit with Sgt. Jenkins that ended when the driver, Umar Burley, crashed into another vehicle, hitting it so hard that it the car ended up on the front porch of a house on the corner, WBAL-TV reported.
The elderly driver of the victim car died from the accident.
After the accident, prosecutors said Sgt. Jenkins planted drugs in Burley’s vehicle and told then-Officer Suiter to search the car.
Officer Suiter found the 28 grams of heroin that Sgt. Jenkins had planted, and Burley and his passenger were charged with, and imprisoned for, federal drug offenses.
The U.S. Attorney's Office filed a petition to vacate the federal convictions of Burley and his passenger because they were innocent, officials said.
Sgt. Jenkins was the supervisor in charge of the Gun Trace Task Force when federal authorities leveled a wide-ranging indictment that alleged the squad had been robbing citizens, falsifying court papers, and earning fraudulent overtime. Four officers in the case have pleaded guilty, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Sgt. Jenkins has not entered a plea, but is tentatively scheduled to go to trial in January. He was charged with racketeering conspiracy, robbery, and use of a firearm.
Thursday’s indictment added charges of “destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations,” and deprivation of rights under the color of law.
Commissioner Davis said he hoped Sgt. Jenkins would be “put underneath of a jail.”
“This guy was able to operate with impunity on this Police Department for far too long,” he said. “If there are any other people associated with him or that federal investigation … I need to know who these people are.”