Lawsuit from Gliniewicz homicide search moves forward

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Gliniewicz standing next to the Fox Lake Explorer Post 300 trophy shelf in 2014. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

A federal class action lawsuit brought by three individuals against the Village of Fox Lake and unnamed “John Doe” members of various law enforcement agencies has been allowed to move forward, following a memorandum opinion and order issued Dec. 21, by Judge Ronald A. Guzman.

A status hearing date for discovery motions will be set within the coming months for the case in the United States Northern District East Division Court.

Filed Aug. 14, the civil suit contends that the Fourth Amendment rights involving unreasonable search and seizure of plaintiffs Raymond Willoughby, Damien Ward, and Dan Cooper, and other individuals similarly situated were violated in the days following the Sept. 1 death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Gliniewicz.

The village had sought dismissal of the suit contending a lack of evidence by the plaintiffs in allowing a pattern of nondisciplinary measures, and that the Gliniewicz death investigation and subsequent constitutional violations were isolated, and committed by other agencies. The suit named Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko, and “John Doe” entries for police officers, sheriff’s deputies, state police agents, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents as defendants.

While Filenko was dismissed without prejudice from the filing as a defendant, Guzman ruled that the “plaintiffs have met their pleading burden by alleging facts that … create the plausible inference that the village’s policies created the risk of constitutional injury to the public. And because the plaintiffs describe the nature of the Task Force, and allege that officers from other municipalities were involved … due to the village’s request for Task Force assistance … may have effected the plaintiffs’ arrests, does not render … claims against the village implausible.”

“We are working to amend the complaint to re-introduce George Filenko, as a defendant,” said attorney Gregory E. Kulis, who filed the action. “There are many other individuals that have not been introduced, and are awaiting the outcome of this civil action. The three defendants were targeted, and law enforcement targeted everybody they could grab on the street with such a broad description.”

Gliniewicz radioed the department’s dispatch Sept. 1, 2015 that he was pursuing three individuals, two white males and one black male, into a wooded area near a former cement factory along Honing Road. He was found dead, and an unprecedented manhunt was initiated in pursuit of the three individuals as homicide suspects.

Willoughby and Ward claim they were arrested the day of Gliniewicz’s death, according to the lawsuit, with Willoughby being handcuffed and held at a nearby police station for two hours. Ward noted an identical circumstance, and that police attempted to enter his home without a search warrant. Cooper stated being at Fox Lake Sept. 2, for 10 hours.                                  

It was later announced, during a Nov. 4, 2015 press conference by the task force, that Gliniewicz had committed suicide and made it appear to be a homicide in order to hide the eventual discovery of malfeasance with Fox Lake Explorer Post 300 bank funds, under his control. His widow, Melodie, was later charged with felony counts related to the misuse of nonprofit funds for personal appropriation. She has pleaded not guilty, and her criminal case is still pending.


–Lawsuit from Gliniewicz homicide search moves forward–