FOX LAKE – Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz was not killed in the line of duty but committed a “cleverly staged” suicide out of fear of getting caught stealing from the police youth group he led, investigators revealed Wednesday.
In a shocking twist, investigators said Gliniewicz, a 30-year veteran of the force, had been stealing from the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post 300 program for at least seven years, using the money for personal expenses such as personal loans, gym memberships, travel and visits to adult websites, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko said.
Gliniewicz, whose Sept. 1 death sparked a fierce manhunt for the killers and a national outpouring of grief, shot himself twice with his own .40-caliber service weapon after radioing in a call for backup while investigating three suspicious men.
“Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the law enforcement community,” Filenko said.
Filenko said Gliniewicz, 52, used his experience staging mock crime scenes for children learning about police work to make the scene look like he died in an ongoing struggle.
He was found near a former concrete plant, which was an area known for graffiti, drugs and squatting. Gliniewicz left a trail spanning nearly 300 feet of his pepper spray, baton and glasses behind him, investigators said.
“This was an attempt to mislead first responders and individuals into believing this was a homicide scene,” Filenko said.
The theft investigation also has revealed involvement of two other people, whom Filenko did not name because the case is still open.
Investigators would not comment on questions about the involvement of Gliniewicz’s wife in the laundering scheme. Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Chris Covelli, the task force spokesman, said the two people – who Gliniewicz had been communicating with via text message – have been spoken with, but he wouldn’t discuss who was under investigation.
Investigators also said Gliniewicz improperly obtained federal surplus equipment available to police officers, such as cots and helmets. He was the sole signator on the explorer’s account, investigators said. Covelli said the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Justice will handle the ongoing investigation.
Filenko said an analysis of more than 6,500 pages of text messages from Gliniewicz, as well as bank statements obtained during the shooting investigation, indicated Gliniewicz began realizing about six months before his death that his misdeeds most likely would be discovered. Filenko said the amount of money involved is in the “five-figure range.”
The texts included “extremely incriminating statements” indicating Gliniewicz realized an ongoing audit of Fox Lake’s finances and assets by a new administration eventually would lead to him, investigators said.
In one text to an unidentified individual borrowing from an account, Gliniewicz wrote “when you get back youll [sic] have to start dumping money into that account or you will be visiting me in JAIL!!”
Gliniewicz’s death was a national news story for weeks. He received a hero’s funeral at Antioch Community High School, where thousands of police officers and mourners paid their respects.
Filenko spent a lot of time in the news conference defending the investigation, saying the slow and methodical approach investigators took was necessary and they never intended to hide anything from the public.
Silence and leads that went bust, from DNA evidence at the scene to video of the alleged perpetrators, added to frustration and rumors that all was not as it seemed.
Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd for the first time Wednesday revealed results of Gliniewicz’s autopsy.
Gliniewicz first shot himself in the torso, and the bullet pierced his cellphone before getting lodged in the officer’s bulletproof vest and leaving a bruise, Rudd said. He continued, saying the fatal bullet was shot under Gliniewicz’s vest at a 40-degree angle, causing catastrophic damage.
Rudd added his autopsy showed Gliniewicz did not have defensive wounds on his arms or hands, but did have bruises and wounds on his head that would have been caused by his fall after the fatal shot.
He said based on his findings, as well as the investigators’ victimology report they reviewed with him Monday, he agreed Gliniewicz killed himself.
Gliniewicz’s gun was found 2½ feet from his head about two hours into the investigation, Filenko said, crediting the delay to the grassy, overgrown area where the shooting happened.
As for DNA evidence found at the scene, Filenko said it could have come from transfers from a number of people and places.
There would have been some financial gain for the Gliniewicz family in the case of a line of duty death.
According to Illinois law, his widow would have received a pension equal to 100 percent of his salary, which is up to 50 percent more than a typical surviving spouse receives. Gliniewicz’s salary was about $96,000 at the time of his death, village records show.
Fox Lake Police Pension Board lawyer Laura Goodloe in an earlier interview said the pension will range from 50 percent to 75 percent of that salary regardless of the manner of Gliniewicz’s death.
Filenko said this was “the first time as a law enforcement officer that I felt ashamed by the acts of another police officer.”
In a prepared statement, Fox Lake Village Administrator Anne Marrin said the village government wants everyone who was involved in illegal activities with Gliniewicz to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Marrin said Gliniewicz had made personal threats to her as the investigation into the Police Explorer funding proceeded.
Gliniewicz in texts called her a “power monger” who hated the explorer program. In one to an unnamed individual, he appears to insinuate either planting things on her or getting rid of her in the Volo Bog.
Marrin said the community is unsettled by seeing a side of Gliniewicz that laid in “stark contrast” to his public persona – he was known affectionately as “G.I. Joe” in the community, in reference to his 27 years in the U.S. Army, both active and reserve.
“The community is the real victim here, so let’s always bear that in mind when we go forward,” she said.
Gliniewicz was a married father of four sons.