Charles Joseph Gliniewicz: Lake County, Illinois Cop’s Death Ruled An Elaborate Suicide

Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, an Illinois police officer whose death in early September sparked a huge manhunt that left more questions than answers, committed suicide, according to the results of an investigation announced Wednesday.

As MSN reports, Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko, speaking at a news conference Wednesday, announced that the 52-year-old Gliniewicz committed a “carefully staged” suicide following years of “extensive criminal acts.”

“This is the first time as a law enforcement officer… that I’ve felt ashamed by the acts of another police officer. There are no winners here. Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community. The facts of his actions prove he behaved for years in a manner completely contrary to the image he portrayed.”

Gliniewicz died on the morning of September 1, according to the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald. At about 7:52 a.m., Gliniewicz was investigating suspicious activity in a marshy area in rural Lake County, Illinois (Lake County is north of Chicago). The Fox Lake Village cop called in that he had seen three men — two white and one black — “acting suspiciously.” After calling in a brief foot chase, Gliniewicz called for backup. Fourteen minutes later, he was found mortally wounded. He died at 8:25 a.m.

The 30-year-veteran of the police force was shot twice, with his own gun — once in his bulletproof vest, and once over it. Gliniewicz’ death touched off a massive manhunt in the area, although no suspects were ever apprehended. Three men who had been captured on video near where he died were identified, but were ruled out as suspects. Gliniewicz, who went by the nickname “Joe,” was a beloved member of the Fox Lake Police force and of the community. Days after his death, a funeral at nearby Antioch Community High School brought thousands of mourners, including officers from a thousand different police agencies. The former Army veteran was buried with full military honors, and helicopters flew over his funeral in military formation.

Known as “G.I. Joe” among his colleagues, Gliniewicz headed the Fox Lake Police Department’s “Explorers” program, which gave aspiring police officers on-the-job experience. It was that program, Filenko said, that led to Gliniewicz’ undoing. Filenko said that Gliniewicz treated the program as his own “personal bank account,” forging signatures and stealing about “five figures” from the program, according to the New York Daily News. Gliniewicz then spent the money on gym memberships, adult websites, expensive vacations, and other expenses.

Once Gliniewicz learned that the department was conducting an audit, Filenko said, the veteran cop staged a murder scene to cover up his suicide.

Just days before Gliniewicz died, former Fox Lake Police Chief Michael Behan retired from the department, shortly after he and another officer were placed on leave. As WBBM (Chicago) reports, the two officers were part of an internal investigation into a police brutality complaint stemming from a 2014 incident. The timing of Behan’s departure and Gliniewicz’ death raised questions about whether or not the two issues are related.

In fact, Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim says that the investigation into Gliniewicz’ death has revealed evidence of other crimes not related to his death, crimes now being investigated by the FBI. Nerheim declined to provide further details.

By ruling Gliniewicz’ death a suicide, the department won’t have to pay his widow his pension — officers killed in the line of duty are eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, but since his death was ruled a suicide, his widow is not eligible.

[Image via Lake County Sheriff / Chicago Sun-Times]