The Illinois cop whose death sparked a massive manhunt in September killed himself in a “carefully staged suicide” after committing “extensive criminal acts,” police said Wednesday.
Police said Fox Lake Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz’s death came amid increasing levels of personal stress from scrutiny of his management of the Fox Lake police Explorers program, a youth group.
Gliniewicz had been stealing and laundering money through the program, funneling “thousands of dollars” for personal purposes — including gym memberships, adult websites and loans to associates, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko told reporters.
Gliniewicz’s death on Sept. 1 has been shrouded in mystery and become fodder for conspiracy theorists as police have released limited information, saying they don’t want to compromise the investigation.
When the Lake County coroner released new details a week after the shooting — that he couldn’t rule out a suicide and Gliniewicz died from “a single devastating gunshot wound” — authorities blasted him publicly for being “irresponsible.”
Police had maintained this much: Gliniewicz was patrolling a remote area of Fox Lake when the 30-year veteran officer saw three men and stopped to question them at 7:52 a.m. He radioed for backup about three minutes later, with the trio described as two white males and one black male.
But by the time other officers arrived, Gliniewicz was found dead at the scene. In less than 15 minutes, the men managed to vanish on foot, police said.
At first, authorities said the officer’s service weapon and pepper spray had gone missing. Then they said his gun was recovered at the scene.
Police said Gliniewicz was shot twice with his weapon: once on the right side of the front of his protective vest, and then in the upper left chest — believed to be the fatal shot.
Last month, following a massive manhunt that at its height included several SWAT teams, federal agents and helicopters, Lake County officials said that they were continuing to treat his death as a homicide — although other possibilities were still on the table.
Nine samples of DNA were recovered at the scene, and one was confirmed to be a male, Filenko said in October. It wasn’t clear at the time whether any of the samples were taken from Gliniewicz’s gun, but that he appeared to have been involved in a physical struggle before he died.
Meanwhile, Gliniewicz — nicknamed “G.I. Joe.” — was remembered by mourners as a father of four, dedicated to his job and mentoring youth through the local Explorers program.
“When we were growing up, we always knew he was a hero — but now the whole nation knows him as a hero,” his brother, Micheal Gliniewicz, said at his funeral.
Gliniewicz was due to retire in August, but was asked to stay on an extra month. His family has previously said that they don’t believe he would have committed suicide.