During a Nov. 4 press conference, Lake County and Fox Lake officials confirmed what had been rumored for nearly two months: Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz committed suicide by a single “catastrophic” gunshot wound in “a carefully staged suicide,” masked as a homicide.
The ongoing investigation also uncovered financial improprieties connected to the Fox Lake Explorer Post 300, under Gliniewicz’s management.
Lake County Major Crimes Task force Cmdr. George Filenko read from a prepared statement, also distributed as a press release.
“This extensive investigation has concluded, with an overwhelming amount of evidence that Gliniewicz’s death was a carefully staged suicide.
“We have determined this staged suicide was the end result of extensive criminal acts Gliniewicz had been committing, and the fact that he was under increasing levels of personal stress from scrutiny of his management of the Fox Lake Explorer Program. In addition, we have the concurrence of our investigative … partners, our investigation strongly indicates the participation of at least two other individuals.”
The stunning announcement was a surprise turnaround, from previous press conferences, where an almost clandestine lack of pertinent information delivered to the public, since the Sept. 1 shooting. Consistent statements by the task force indicated the investigation was being treated as a homicide, although Filenko reiterated that “nothing was off the table.”
Gliniewicz was found dead by responding officers Sept. 1, with two gunshot wounds in the area of 100 Honing Road in Fox Lake. He radioed department dispatch at 7:52 a.m., about following three suspects engaged in suspicious activity, while refusing back-up until a second contact. Officers found the deceased officer eight minutes after that contact, and began an intensive manhunt for the three suspects over a five-day period.
Filenko said the three individuals were identified through surveillance video extracted from “labs in Quantico, to create a timeline … they were contacted, they were interviewed, and they had rock-solid alibis.”
The issue of the homicide, actually being a suicide, began to circulate as rumor, following a statement by Lake County coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd.
“Because of the newspaper article, where I said it was a single, catastrophic gunshot wound and an inability to rule the death as a homicide, suicide, accidental, or undetermined was true,” he said, at the press gathering. “When I came away from the (autopsy) table, I had no cause for the bullet being in his chest, until they (task force) provided the crime scene information.
“There was one gunshot to his lower rib cage, which did not pierce the vest, but left a deep bruise. The catastrophic wound was under the neck area of the vest, at a 40-degree angle, and severed an artery to his heart … he lived for about 1-2 minutes after that. As his lungs were filling with blood, he went along, dropping equipment. There were no signs of a struggle. There were dirt marks on his knees and blunt force to his nose, from falling forward.
Rudd acknowledged the task force’s “hard work … well done. The cause and manner of death were completed by objective medical evidence at the autopsy, and crime scene information … I agree, it is a carefully staged suicide. This officer killed himself.”
What remained, and arguably, may have been the underlying question, why?
Filenko explained, “The investigation found the Gliniewicz had been stealing and laundering money … from the Explorer Post … over the past seven years. Thousands of dollars were used by Gliniewicz for personal purhcases such as travel expenses, mortgage expenses, adult websites … (he) was also found to have forged signatures on official documents.”
Fox Lake public information officer, Det. Chris Covelli, said “We have over 65 pages of text messages, 40,000 emails, some that were deleted, and the task force systematically explored every tip into the death of the officer.”
It was also disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had analyzed bank ledgers, from the last six months, culminating in the suicide date.
Officials indicated the unraveling point came, when former Fox Lake police chief Mike Behan was placed on paid administrative leave, with another officer, over a December 2014 altercation with an intoxicated female. The officer was disciplined, and allegedly a technicality over a document filing led to a meeting with the village’s administrator Ann Marrin, eight months later.
Behan retired several days later, and an internal investigation on the matter, as well as an inventory of police department assets, was initiated. A contract with Bloomingdale-based Gold Star, Inc. for both investigations led Gliniewicz to believe it was “a matter of time,” before his malfeasance was discovered.
“The last 60 days have been stressful for Fox Lake, and we are glad this level of the investigation is concluded,” said Marrin, also at the conference. “This is a stark contrast of Gliniewicz, and only asking the tough questions … which was the absolute right thing to do. The village is the victim here, and clearly as work lies ahead, we are a stronger and smarter community.”
Filenko said the turning point in the investigation came, “With the culmination of evidence, Quantico lab results, bank records, several roundtable discussions of evidence, and concurrence with the coroner’s office. This was Nov. 2.
“This is the first time in my law enforcement career that I am ashamed … of the act of another police officer.”
— Task force reveals Gliniewicz shooting was suicide —