FOX LAKE – Everyone who knew Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz described him the same way: kind, generous, dedicated, proud, a family man.
On Tuesday, Gliniewicz was shot and killed in the line of duty after a foot chase with three suspects. The 30-year police veteran was one month away from retirement.
Outpourings in Gliniewicz’ honor were streaming in on social media and from a mourning community.
“This is real – it went from seeing it on the news to my backyard,” said Fox Lake resident Gina Maria.
She was part of about a dozen supporters holding signs that read “Police lives matter,” “Blue n Brave” or “RIP G.I. Joe.”
Brittany Evans, a business owner in town, said the officer was not only well-liked, but well-known.
“We haven’t had any events like this in this town,” Evans said. “It’s going to change this town forever. Everybody knew Joe.”
Gliniewicz, who went by Joe to his friends and family and “G.I. Joe” at the police department, was a lieutenant in the Fox Lake Police Department, a youth volunteer, an Army veteran, a father and husband.
He leaves behind a wife and four boys, who range in age from their early 20s to a teenager, a neighbor said. His Facebook page said he was married to his wife for more than 26 years.
Gliniewicz also was a leader of the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post, which trains high school students who are interested in law enforcement. Many of the group’s participants gathered with the demonstration taking place across the street from the police staging area Tuesday night.
Explorer Kyle Klask called Gliniewicz a mentor, and he credits Gliniewicz with his decision to pursue a future career in law enforcement.
“He is a great guy – someone I always looked up to,” the 18-year-old Round Lake resident said. “If you need help with anything, he’s always there for you.”
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit described Gliniewicz as a decorated officer who was dedicated to the community.
“Today, not only did Fox Lake lose a family member, I lost a very dear friend,” Schmit said. “We lost a family member.”
Schmit met with Gliniewicz on Monday to discuss his upcoming retirement. Gliniewicz was set to retire at the end of September, but he was concerned about the future of the Explorers, a program he “poured his heart and soul into.”
“[The coming days are] going to be horrible,” Schmit said. “Everyone’s shocked. Everybody knew him. He was around town for everything.”
Others said he often gave up vacation time to volunteer with the program.
Lynette Garrett, president of the Antioch charity Cyclingforkids, met Gliniewicz in April when she reached out to the Explorers organization about providing help for 50 cyclists to cross the intersection of Sayton Road and Route 12 – the same intersection where Gliniewicz was killed Tuesday – during the organization’s Blue Ribbon Ride.
Gliniewicz went to help on his day off, got the Fox Lake Police Department involved and gave the organizers his personal phone number in case they needed extra help, she said.
Mike Madlener said that was typical of Gliniewicz. As a resident of Fox Lake for 22 years, Madlener said he was friends with Gliniewicz, “just like everyone else here in town.”
He said he saw the officer at all kinds of events in Fox Lake, and Gliniewicz was the first to volunteer whenever a local organization needed help with an event.
“Everyone in town knew who he was. Whether you were on a first-name basis or knew his rank, you knew he was a great guy,” Madlener said. “Just being involved in his community, he took pride in it. This is where he lived, and it’s what he fought to protect. He took great pride in making Fox Lake the place it is.”
Neighbors in his Antioch subdivision remembered him as a helpful hand and a family man.
“It just breaks my heart,” one neighbor tearfully said from her front stoop. She did not want to be identified.
“He’s a really good guy,” said Nicole Giorgi, 23, who reported seeing the officer leave his home for work early Tuesday morning and waved, as they often do. “He’s always outside with his kids, always at school functions.”
Gliniewicz served in the Army, both active-duty and reserve, from 1980 until 2007, and left as a first sergeant, according to sources. Gliniewicz graduated Antioch Community High School in 1981, and he had a master’s degree in criminal justice from Kaplan University, according to his Facebook page.
A candlelight vigil is tentatively planned to honor Gliniewicz at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lakefront Park, 71 Nippersink Blvd. in Fox Lake.
• Northwest Herald reporters Emily Coleman, Allison Goodrich and Caitlin Swieca contributed to this report.