Crime & Courts

Few answers 2 months after Fox Lake police officer shot, killed

Coroner still leans toward homicide ruling in shooting death of Fox Lake officer

FOX LAKE – Nearly two months have passed since Fox Lake police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz was fatally shot, and a few more weeks could pass before investigators are able to rule out any theory on how the veteran officer died.

Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Chris Covelli said investigators continue to look at every angle of the Sept. 1 shooting. Police know Gliniewicz, 52, was shot twice with his own gun: once in the front right of his vest and once in the upper-left chest. However, police have said gunshot residue tests could not discern whether Gliniewicz or someone else fired his .40-caliber service weapon.

“That opens the door where we have to look at any possible situation that could create a result,” Covelli said. “Whenever evidence, physical evidence or evidence we obtain through the investigation or interviews we conduct with individuals that don’t result in definitives, we have to take everything into account.”

Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd has yet to rule Gliniewicz’s death a homicide, suicide, accident or undetermined. He said the decision will come after the Lake County Major Crime Task Force investigating the shooting completes a victimology report.

He expects that report within the next one to three weeks.

“I still lean toward homicide,” Rudd said. “However, I can’t make that decision, so the others remain open.”

Three DNA samples collected at the scene that were of the quality to be run through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS, have not matched any samples in the system, Covelli said. He added the samples are run daily in case a matching DNA sample enters the system.

Surveillance video failed to provide substantial leads early in the investigation. Covelli said Gliniewicz was assigned to one of the Fox Lake squad cars that was not equipped with a dashboard camera, and no surrounding cameras captured him on video as he was on foot near a former concrete plant at 128 Honing Road. He had previously been assigned to patrol the area known for graffiti, drugs and squatting.

Investigators said a GPS unit in his squad showed Gliniewicz had been in the area for about 20 minutes before he radioed to dispatched that he was investigating two white males and one black male. Covelli said based on that radio traffic, the theory that the three males described were involved also has not been be ruled out.

The 30-year veteran of the police department initially told a dispatcher he didn’t need a backup unit, but he asked for backup at 7:55 a.m., investigators said. 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.

Investigators have said the scene showed signs of a struggle. Gliniewicz’s gun was found at the scene, but Covelli would not comment on any other weapons found there.

The number of investigators working the case has decreased since the initial surge of more than 400 officers. However, Covelli said the FBI remains active in the investigation. The agency also still has a tips site set up seeking information about the case.

Police have explored whether there was any connection between the shooting and two internal investigations at the Fox Lake Police Department, Covelli said.

Covelli said there is no connection to the Fox Lake Police Department’s internal investigation about a 2014 incident launched a week before former chief Michael Behan retired. The shooting investigation is connected to the internal review of the department’s assets and procedures in that Gliniewicz was asked to help before the shooting, Covelli said.

“The lieutenant was part of the internal review of assets being done, and he was compiling data when all of this happened,” Covelli said. “That’s the extent of his involvement.”

Fox Lake Village President Donny Schmit, who was friends with Gliniewicz and had talked to him the day before the fatal shooting, said he missed Gliniewicz and has confidence in the ongoing investigation.

“As far as the timeline, obviously I would like to see it come to a conclusion,” Schmit said. “But I would rather have a thorough investigation than a hasty one.”

Covelli said police also remain confident as the investigation continues.

“In any case we work, whether it be a task force case or non-task force case, the end goal is for justice to be served and for us to serve justice to the victims and the community,” Covelli said. “And there is no doubt in my mind justice will be served in this case.”

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