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Slain Baltimore detective was to testify in indicted officers' case

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis gives an update on the investigation into Detective Sean Suiter's killing. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)

Slain Baltimore homicide detective Sean Suiter was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury in the case against a squad of indicted officers, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis confirmed Wednesday evening.

The new information brings together two cases that have sent shockwaves through city law enforcement and the city as a whole: the indictment of eight members of an elite gun task force who are accused of shaking down citizens for years and conspiring with drug dealers, and the first killing of an on-duty officer by a suspect in 10 years.

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Davis said he was told "in no uncertain terms" that Suiter was not a target of the Gun Trace Task Force investigation, and said authorities have no reason to believe Suiter's killing was connected to his pending testimony.

"The BPD and FBI do not possess any information that this incident ... is part of any conspiracy," Davis said. He said evidence showed the shooting occurred spontaneously, sparked by Suiter's decision to investigate a suspicious person.

Of Suiter, a father of five, he said: "There is no information that has been communicated to me that Det. Suiter was anything other than a stellar detective, great friend, loving husband and dedicated father."

Davis also confirmed that Suiter is believed to have been killed with his own service weapon and said there was evidence of a struggle.

Police have said Suiter and a partner were conducting a follow-up investigation on a triple homicide when he saw someone acting suspiciously in a vacant lot and approached. The 43-year-old detective was shot once in the head, and died the next day.

Seeking to quash rumors, Davis said private surveillance video shows the partner seeking cover across the street when the gunfire erupted.

"The evidence refutes the notion that Det. Suiter's partner was anything but just that, his partner," Davis said, reading from a prepared statement. "Upon the sound of gunfire, Det. Suiter's partner sought cover across the street. He immediately called 911. We know this, because it is captured on private surveillance video that we have recovered."

Eight members of the Gun Trace Task Force were indicted earlier this year, and authorities are continuing to investigate allegations related to the squad. Four officers have pleaded guilty and at least two of them are cooperating with authorities. Four others have pleaded not guilty and are tentatively scheduled for trial in January.

Among those officers is Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the supervisor of the Gun Trace Task Force.

Davis said he was told by federal prosecutors that Suiter was to testify against already-indicted officers, in relation to an incident from several years ago.

In 2010, Suiter was involved in a high-speed chase with Jenkins, in which an elderly man was killed. Charged in the case were two men named Umar Burley and Brent Matthews, who were both convicted and sentenced to federal prison.

Court records show the assistant U.S. attorneys prosecuting the Gun Trace Task Force entered their appearances in the closed case in late August, and there have been multiple sealed filings.

The U.S. attorney's office in Maryland declined to comment Wednesday night.

State court records show Suiter made dozens of arrests with Det. Maurice Ward, one of the officers who has pleaded guilty in the Gun Trace Task Force case, between 2007 and 2009. He made two arrests in 2008 with Det. Momodu Gondo, and three arrests in 2010 with Jenkins.

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Authorities are offering a reward of $215,000 for information in Suiter's killing.

Fenton writes for the Baltimore Sun. Follow him on Twitter: @justin_fenton

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