Crime & Courts

Fox Lake police officer shot with his own gun, signs of struggle at scene, investigators say

Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was in area for 20 minutes before making call to dispatch, GPS shows

FOX LAKE – Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz was shot twice with his own gun, Lake County investigators said Thursday.

What investigators believe was the first shot went into the front of Gliniewicz’s bulletproof vest on the right side, and would have incapacitated him, Lake County Major Crime Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko said at a news conference outside the Fox Lake Police Department.

“A comparison was made. It would be similar to that of a sledgehammer hitting you in the side,” Filenko said.

The second shot, which Filenko said was the fatal one, struck Gliniewicz in the area of his upper-left chest.

Filenko would not say whether the fatal shot was fired around or pierced the bulletproof vest.

Timeline of Fox Lake police shooting, manhunt

Filenko said investigators continue to pursue the case as a homicide, although officials have not officially ruled it as a homicide, suicide, accident or undetermined.

Filenko said there were indications of a struggle at the crime scene, but gunshot residue tests were inconclusive in discerning who fired Gliniewicz’s .40 caliber service weapon.

“The weapon could have been fired by Lt. Gliniewicz, or he could have been in close proximity of the weapon being fired,” Filenko said.

Filenko would not expand on what the signs of a struggle were or if other shots were fired.
Thursday’s update came one month into the investigation of Gliniewicz’s shooting death. Gliniewicz, 52, was shot and killed Sept. 1 near a shuttered concrete plant in the 100 block of Honing Road while he investigating three suspicious men, described as two white men and one black man.

Investigators Thursday also revealed more details about the morning Gliniewicz was shot. A GPS unit in Gliniewicz’s squad car showed he was on foot in the area for about 20 minutes before he radioed to dispatch that he was investigating the individuals, Filenko said.

Police have previously said Gliniewicz was assigned to patrol the area, which has been the source of complaints about vandalism, squatting and drugs.

The 30-year veteran of the police department initially told a dispatcher he didn’t need a backup unit, Filenko said. He asked for backup at 7:55 a.m., officers arrived at 8:01 a.m., and Gliniewicz’s body was found at 8:09 a.m. about 50 yards from his vehicle, police have said.

Filenko revealed investigators located nine DNA samples from unknown sources – a typical amount for a similar crime – on Gliniewicz’s things at the crime scene, and three of those pieces were of high enough quality to be run through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). One of the DNA samples has been identified as coming from a male, Filenko said.

Investigators have taken more than 100 DNA swabs from anyone who might have had contact with Gliniewicz or the crime scene, including police, Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Chris Covelli said. By the end of the day Thursday, investigators planned to have 30 or 40 more to send to the Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Lab.

Filenko would not reveal if any of the DNA samples were collected from Gliniewicz’s service weapon, which police previously said was found at the crime scene.

Although Filenko said during previous updates he believed the three suspects might have stayed in the area, he said Thursday he could not be so sure.

Investigators previously had revealed that a federally trained K-9 unit on the scene that day was able to positively track a scent away from the scene. The dog was following an ongoing track when its handler succumbed to the heat and had to be evacuated from the scene.

Covelli said they have not ruled out any theory, and the investigation remains “extraordinarily complex” and active. Filenko added investigators have held back some details to protect their case.

“I’ve heard the word ‘conspiracy’ used quite often,” Filenko said. “And we want the public to have as much information as possible without revealing any information that is going to compromise our investigation.”

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