“Ultimate betrayal:” Death of Fox Lake police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was “a carefully planned suicide”

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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.

Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

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.

Officer shot, killed in Fox Lake, IL

Officer shot, killed in Fox Lake, IL

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.

George Filenko

George Filenko

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.

Funeral for Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

Funeral for Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

"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.

READ IT: Documents in Lt. Joe Gliniewicz case, including text message transcripts

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."

Memorial for Fox Lake Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

Memorial for Fox Lake Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

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.

Preparations for Lt. Joe Gliniewicz's funeral in Antioch, Illinois

Preparations for Lt. Joe Gliniewicz's funeral in Antioch, Illinois

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.

Memorial for Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

Memorial for Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

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."

Memorial for Fox Lake Lt. Joe Gliniewicz

Memorial for Fox Lake Lt. Joe Gliniewicz


  • Billllly

    The media is pissed they spent so much time on such a “tragedy” just to find out he was a criminal who killed himslef, and wates millions of dollars on a “search” for no reason. This due was a clear winner… ruin your life, drag your remaining family through the mud, and put public safety in jeopardy while doing so. What a loser.

  • b..

    Oh no I thought he was a saint…!!!he was a criminal with a badge..I knew something was fishy bout his death..wow

    • Vitto

      This guy was and is a scum bag criminal he stole from kids. Really for your self gratification. He family should be ashamed of his actions using the shield of the law to steal from KIDS… Shameful!

  • Brian

    This is complete and utter bull. I knew this man personally. He dedicated his life to Law enforcement. He retired from the military as a E-7 MP. This man was the definition of live by the law. LAW ENFORCEMENT WAS HIS LIFE. It just goes to show that anyone will believe the media. Shame on you Lake County, you have effective destroyed a great man and his career and passion. Shame on you.

    • Priscilla

      Unfortunately he is not here to defend himself. That being said sometimes we think we know someone when we really don’t at all. He may have been a good man but even good people have demons.

    • K

      I agree !! Goes to show anyone will believe the news regardless. Just had this happen with my family and it sickens me how quick people are to judge based on news opinions.

  • What The ...

    He want that good of a cop, he couldnt cover the tracks of his family and his criminal activity. What a POS, I hope his family feels even better now that he killed himself and still they were found out. I am sure he thought killing himself would take care of his family but guess not. You may think you know some one but some people get greedy and hide it well. Looks great for all Police Officers, I feel bad for all the cops that came from all over to support the family.

    Brian, sorry your friend did this but some people hide things very well. This case was looked into deeper cause he was a Police officer and I am pretty sure this is not what the Fox Lake Police Department wanted to find…

  • atacs

    It’s so weird how cops are some of the biggest criminals in the world? I bet if the nation had the resources to investigate departments all through the United States they would find hundreds if not thousands of corrupt criminal cops on the clock deceiving us all. God Iam asking you to please hand down a dose of incurable cancer to all corrupt police.Thank you a citizen who’s had enough of crooked cops.

  • B

    So Obama was blamed for this guy’s death and every republican that blamed him was reported on with articles and quotes. Now we find out he was a dirty cop who killed himself and not a single mention about all those republicans and quoted law officials who blame Obama. What professional journalism.

  • Thuban

    I am honestly perplexed by this. When it happened, I was shocked and watched the coverage for a while but stopped before these things came up. I recently stumbled onto the story again and saw he was accused of all these things and now his family probably won’t get his pension because of their involvement. It was a total 180 so I started looking at these articles and videos all at once. I have some questions I can’t seem to find answers to. It seems from press conferences that he’s guilty, but it doesn’t mesh with the narrative right after the fact where people were saying he was a great guy, totally a poster boy cop (obviously that could be explained with not wanting to dump on a murdered officer though). So here are my questions:

    -Gun shot residue was found under his vest from the second gunshot. Was there any other residue found? On his hands? On the lower right chest where the first shot was? You would think that there are 3 places you’d likely find this when all the gunshot are close range and self inflicted: the hand that fired the gun (especially if it was fired at the right angle) and on the clothes where the shots hit. 1/3 seems odd.
    -Where was the gun? That first shot had to hurt, even with the vest. The second shot seems like it tore him up pretty bad and killed him quickly. Was it right there? Was it recently fired? Did he somehow stash it somewhere while massively bleeding?
    -Was there a match between the bullets and his gun? Where were the shell casings?
    -He stole a decent amount of money from the explorers post, but how? Was it petty cash here and there or was he in charge of an account siphoned off of that? One of the texts seems to point to the latter but very vaguely.
    -Speaking of texts, not that many were released and I don’t find them very damning, especially out of context. Scroll through a text chain on your own phone to a few days ago and read 1 text without looking at any surrounding ones. Could it be misconstrued? Would it depend if it was your wife or a good friend or just a stupid comment (recipients of the texts weren’t disclosed).
    -It’s now coming out that he allegedly did some terribly illegal things like embezzle money, abuse police privileges and sexually harass coworkers. Were none of these things reported before his death? Nobody caught on? Where are the records of these investigations from before his death saying that anything was being looked at or reported? Especially since he was so afraid that the authorities were close enough, even without an official investigation started, to kill himself.

    Again though, I honestly don’t know. I’m not saying there’s some conspiracy. I just don’t think a lot of pertinent information and evidence has been made public. Which is a shame considering how much people hate this guy now.

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