Zion-Benton News

Gliniewicz staged his

By Ginny Skweres
Zion-Benton News staff

A two-month investigation into the death of Lt. Joe Gliniewicz of the Fox Lake Police Department was declared a carefully staged suicide on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Sgt.
Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Gliniewicz had been involved in extensive criminal acts and was under personal stress due to the investigation of the Explorers' Post, which he ran. Fox Lake had begun an audit which would have revealed the crimes.

Lt. Gliniewicz, a 30-year police veteran, was found shot to death in a secluded area of Fox Lake after he called in that he was following three suspicious men into the area.

An intense manhunt using about 50 law enforcement agencies as well as helicopters and K9 units searched for days and the investigation has lasted two months. The FBI, U.S. Marshalls, Secret Service, Homeland Security and ATF agents were also involved.

George Filenko, Commander of the Major Crimes Task Force, led the investigation. Investigators followed up tips, looked at surveillance video, had DNA tested, did ballistic tests and interviewed anyone who could have been a witness.

Officers put in 25,000 hours of investigation, followed up on 430 leads, examined 250 pieces of evidence, looked at bank records and, with help from Quantico, gained access to e-mails, phone calls and texts on his personal cell phone.

Commander Filenko said they found evidence that Gliniewicz had been stealing and laundering money for the past seven years. He had forged documents and used the money for personal expenses. Part of it had to do with federal surplus equipment. That portion of the investigation is still ongoing since it involves two more individuals.

Glinewicz left a staged trail of police equipment - pepper spray, baton and his glasses - to look like a homicide, Filenko said. "He had experience doing this for the Explorers." The first shot hit his cell phone and vest and both were fired at close range. Gun residue was found under his vest.

"All scenarios were investigated and there were no preconceived conclusions or pre-judgment. There was no winner.

"He committed the ultimate betrayal. He behaved for years in a way that was contrary to his image," Filenko said.

Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd said coroners are mandated to investigate deaths and look for medical evidence. He agreed that the gunshot appeared staged.
The first shot went through the phone and into the vest, but did not break the skin. It did leave a large bruise. The fatal shot went into the upper left chest about two inches below the collar and hit the pulmonary artery and entered the back of the vest.
Rudd said the second shot indicates that the gun was placed under the vest at a 40 degree angle.

"I agree with the findings that this was a carefully staged suicide," Rudd said.

Filenko said the trail of evidence that Gliniewicz left was typical of a struggle at the scene. However, that was contradicted by the fact that the officer had no trauma to his hands and his uniform was not disheveled as it would be in a struggle.

The Sept. 7 funeral held in Antioch High School was attended by officers from who came to honor him from as far away as New York and California. The funeral procession had more than 1,000 squad cars and travelled 18 miles to reach the cemetery that was only a mile from the school. Well-wishers lined the streets along the way. As a veteran, he was buried with full military honors.

When asked how this honor was allowed to proceed, Filenko said they were still doing a thorough investigation at that time and had nothing early on to indicate a suicide.