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'Hero' cop faked on-duty murder, took his own life

Lieutenant Charles Gliniewicz had been embezzling money from a police program for local young people.

Charles Joseph Gliniewitz Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz Source: AP

A POLICE OFFICER who was lauded as a hero after his fatal shooting in fact killed himself and carefully staged his death to make it seem like he died in the line of duty, authorities said today.

Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a Police Lieutenant in Fox Lake, a suburb of Chicago, had embezzled thousands of dollars from a police program for local young people for seven years, and spent the money on such things as mortgage payments, travel expenses, gym memberships and adult websites.

That’s according to Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko, who indicated that his suicide came before investigators unearthed evidence of the embezzlement.

Minutes before he died on 1 September, Gliniewicz radioed that he was chasing three suspicious men in a swampy area of Fox Lake.

Backup officers followed a trail of equipment to the Army veteran’s body, about 50 yards from his police vehicle.

Gliniewicz was a 30-year police veteran and expert crime scene investigator, his boss said, and took elaborate steps to try to make it look like he died in a struggle.

The first bullet struck his cell phone and ballistic vest. The second pierced his upper chest, and his head was bruised in ways the coroner said could have been intentional.

His handgun wasn’t found for more than an hour, even though it was less than three feet from the body, Filenko added.

An intense manhunt began immediately, with hundreds of officers searching houses, cabins and even boats on local lakes. Helicopters with heat-sensing scanners and K-9 units scoured the area for days.

Some 50 suburban Chicago police departments and sheriff’s offices assisted, racking up more than $300,000 in overtime and other costs, according to an analysis that the Daily Herald newspaper published in early October.

More than 100 people submitted to DNA tests as investigators looked for matches to evidence collected at the crime scene — genetic tests that Filenko said ultimately found nothing.

Thomas Rudd, George Filenko, Chris Covelli (L-R). Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd, Major Crime Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko and sheriff's Detective Chris Covelli. Source: AP

More than 100 investigators stayed on the case for weeks, even after questions arose.

One hint came when the Lake County coroner, Dr Thomas Rudd, announced that he couldn’t rule out suicide or an accident.

That prompted an angry response from Filenko, who said releasing such details put “the entire case at risk.”

But as the case progressed, investigators were uncovering incriminating texts and Facebook messages Gliniewicz had sent, expressing fears that his thefts were about to be exposed by an audit of the Explorer program by a new administrator.

If she gets a hold of the old checking account, I’m pretty well f***ed.

He had deleted the texts, but authorities were able to recover them anyway. Investigators released some of them verbatim, but did not identify the people he sent them to.

This village administrator hates me and [the] Explorer program. This situation right here would give her the means to CRUCIFY ME [if] it were discovered.

On 31 August, the day before he took his own life, Gliniewicz wrote that the administrator had demanded a complete inventory and financial report on the program.

Village Administrator Anne Marrin read a brief statement Wednesday thanking authorities for their work, and noting that the officer threatened her personally after she began asking tough questions.

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In one of the texts, Gliniewicz and “Individual #2″ discuss trying to get Marrin out of office, perhaps by arresting her for drunk driving, or even worse.

“Trust me I’ve thought through MANY SCENARIOS from planting things to the volo bog,” he wrote, referring to a local waterway that would be difficult to search.

To the public, the case remained a homicide investigation, even after authorities announced in October that Gliniewicz, 52, had been shot with his own weapon.

Authorities released only the vague description of three suspects that Gliniewicz had radioed in — two white men and a black man.

They tracked down three men captured on a home security video system, but all had rock solid alibis, Filenko said, and no one was ever arrested.

Gliniewicz was held up on national television as a hero who died doing his job in a dangerous environment. An outpouring of grief swept Fox Lake, a village of 10,000 about 50 miles north of Chicago.

The officer’s picture was hung in shop-front windows and flags flew at half-mast in his honour. Others described him as tough when needed, but also as sweet and a role model to youngsters aspiring to go into law enforcement.

Gliniewicz’s family had dismissed the suggestion of suicide. The tattooed officer with a shaved head, who was married and had four children, “never once” thought of taking his own life, and was excited about his retirement plans, his son D.J. Gliniewicz said.

Helplines:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org 
  • Console  1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

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Dan MacGuill

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