Last Wednesday, Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter confronted a man who shot him in the head after the detective tried to speak, according to police. Suiter, an 18-year police veteran and a 43-year-old married father of five, died a day later, becoming the city’s 309th murder victim of 2017, The Intercept reports. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis condemned the killing as “ridiculous, absurd, unnecessary loss of life,” and the killer as “heartless, ruthless, soulless.” The neighborhood was put on lockdown. Over the course of the week, the reward fund to find Suiter’s killer climbed to $215,000, a possible state record. The Harlem Park neighborhood lockdown was justified as a way for cops to preserve the crime scene and collect evidence.
Davis defended the measures, emphasizing the unique role of police. “In America, in this free society, our democracy, police – and I don’t mean to sound like I’m teaching a civics class here, but policing in America is special,” said Davis. As police cars lined the perimeter of Harlem Park for days, residents were unable to enter without showing IDs. Some complained about helicopters flying above their homes, flashing police cars, and being subject to harassment and pat-down searches. Non-residents were barred from entering. The American Civil Liberties Union said residents “deserve a clear explanation from the city as to why this unprecedented action has been taken, what rules are being enforced, and why it is lawful.” The rumor had been circulating that Suiter was preparing to testify against some of the nine officers who have been indicted on racketeering charges. On Wednesday, Davis confirmed that Suiter was set to testify before a grand jury a day after he was shot. He said Suiter appeared to have been killed by his own weapon after a struggle.