FOX Lake, Illinois -- The death of Fox Lake, Illinois, police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was "a carefully planned suicide." That word comes from Lake County Major Crime Task Force commander George Filenko. This development was announced during a news conference held on Wednesday morning, November 4th.
Filenko provided great detail about the circumstances in the death of Gliniewicz. He said this staged suicide was the "end result of extensive criminal acts Gliniewicz had been committing." Filenko said Gliniewicz was under increasing personal stress from scrutiny of his management of Fox Lake Police Explorer units.
Gliniewicz had been stealing and laundering money from the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post. Filenko indicated this had been occurring over the last seven years. Gliniewicz was also found to have forged signatures on official documents. Thousands of dollars were used by Lt. Gliniewicz for personal purchases, travel expenses, mortgage payments, gym memberships and adult websites. There were also facilitated loans and unaccounted cash withdrawals.
"This is the first time as a law enforcement officer in my career that I felt ashamed by the acts of another police officer," Filenko said.
The investigation shows Gliniewicz intentionally left a staged trail of police equipment at the crime scene. That trail consisted of pepper spray, a baton and his glasses -- and this was an attempt to mislead first responders and investigators to believe this was a homicide scene. Apparently Gliniewicz had extensive experience staging mock crime scenes for Explorer training.
Investigators determined the Gliniewicz crime scene was indeed staged because there were no signs Gliniewicz was dragged after the initial shot -- and there were no physical signs that he fought for his life.
Investigators then found that the village of Fox Lake had started "a thorough internal audit of all of their assets" that Gliniewicz was concerned might unearth proof of his illicit financial activities, Filenko said.
Officials say on September 1st, Gliniewicz strategically aimed the first of two shots from his own weapon at the lower abdominal area, striking his cellular phone and bullet-proof vest, which absorbed most of the shock from the blast. Advanced ballistic testing confirmed that both shots were fired at "close range." Filenko said the testing shows the gun was placed underneath the vest carrier when the fatal round was fired.
Filenko said Gliniewicz "committed the ultimate betrayal" with his actions over the past several years. "He behaved for years in a manner completely contrary to the image he portrayed," Filenko said.
Detective Christopher Covelli began the news conference on Wednesday by rattling off how much material was sifted through to come to the conclusion that Gliniewicz's death was staged.
Covelli said 150 separate investigators were involved in this case that tallied more than 25,000 hours. More than 430 leads were examined. More than 250 pieces of evidence were submitted and examined by crime labs. Thousands of pages of financial documents were reviewed. More than 6,500 pages of text messages from Gliniewicz's phone were reviewed as were more than 40,000 emails.
Those text messages were deleted by Gliniewicz before the suicide, but investigators were able to retrieve them.
Authorities released text messages Gliniewicz exchanged with unidentified people in which he discussed the Explorer Post, the youth organization sponsored by the police department. Gliniewicz wanted sponsorship moved to another organization so the city administrator would not scrutinize the post finances.
"Chief won't sign off to move it to american legion and if she gets ahold of the old checking account, im pretty well (expletive)," a May 13 text said.
On June 25 he advised that same person "to start dumping money into that account or you will be visiting me in JAIL!! The 1600 and the 777 all came from there..."
The investigation also indicates at least two others were involved in criminal activity, though that inquiry is ongoing, and police are not commenting further on this angle for now, Filenko said.
But sources tell WGN "Individual 1" and Individual 2" listed in the transcript of those text messages released by officials are Gliniewicz's widow, Melodie Gliniewicz and his son, D.J. Gliniewicz.
At Wednesday's press briefing, Filenko was asked whether police allowed the narrative of Gliniewicz to spread, even as investigators started having doubts.
"We completely believed from day one that (the death of Gliniewicz) was a homicide," he said. "Our intention was never to mislead the public."
Before becoming a police officer, Gliniewicz served in active duty and reserve from 1980 to 2007, earning the nickname GI Joe by those who knew him. He left the military with a rank of first sergeant.
The veteran officer had planned to retire in August, but he was asked to stay on for another month.
The last radio call of his more than 30 years on the job was anything but routine. It would signal the beginning of a mystery that stumped investigators for a time.
On the morning of September 1, the lieutenant sent word over his radio at 7:52 a.m. he was pursuing a trio on foot. Three minutes later, he requested backup. Radio communication dropped off. Colleagues would not hear Gliniewicz's voice again.
The backups arrived at about 8 a.m. and a few minutes later found Gliniewicz dead. His body was roughly 50 yards from his cruiser, police said.
Three people who appeared in a surveillance video near the crime scene were cleared of any suspicion.
A massive manhunt was launched in the aftermath of Gliniewicz's death.
More than 400 law enforcement officers raked through the heavy woods near Fox Lake on foot, all-terrain vehicles and horseback.
The FBI, U.S. Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also helped in the hunt as well as police from adjoining areas. But eventually they pulled out, saying no suspects or persons of interest had been identified.
The Gliniewicz family issued the following statement after the Wednesday morning news conference:
"Today has been another day of deep sorrow for the Gliniewicz family. The family has cooperated with the Task Force's investigation, and will not comment at this time. The Gliniewicz family requests that their privacy be respected as they continue to cope with the loss of the beloved husband and father."