The investigation into the death of an Illinois police officer earlier this month has been beset by clashes between the task force looking into the case and the local coroner, reports say.
Late Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that investigators met with the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz last week without Lake County coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd’s knowledge. The pathologist, identified as Manny Montez, confirmed to the paper that the meeting took place.
“They called me and told me to be present, so I showed up,” Montez said. “We went over my findings. They had copies of my sketches because I haven’t finalized my [autopsy] report yet.”
Fox News first reported last week that two sources close to the case say evidence suggests that Gliniewicz, 52, a 30-year veteran of the Fox Lake, Ill. police force, could have shot himself, despite the original characterization of his death as an execution-style murder by police. Authorities say that while they continue to actively investigate the case as a homicide, they say they aren’t ruling out suicide.
Rudd told the Sun-Times that he was “totally confused” when told that the meeting had happened without him. Montez’s role is to report his autopsy findings to Rudd, who will make the final determination about the cause of Glieniewicz’s death.
Rudd told Fox News last that Gliniewicz died from a “single, devastating” shot to the torso. He said he hasn’t made a ruling in the death and that suicide is a possibility. Earlier Tuesday, Lake County Sheriff’s spokesman Christopher Covelli criticized Rudd to reporters, saying that the coroner had released details that could damage the investigation and claimed that Rudd had not told investigators that he would make such statements to the media.
Meanwhile, Fox 32 Chicago reported that authorities are also still waiting for the result of ballistics and DNA tests that could determine both whether Glinieweicz, 52, was shot with his own service weapon and if unknown DNA found at the scene matches anyone in a criminal database.
The station also reported that computers belonging to Gliniewicz are being forensically analyzed at a laboratory and his social media presence is also being scrutinized. However, investigators are still waiting for certain websites to comply with requests by law enforcement.
The drama began on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 1 when Gliniewicz radioed in from a remote, marshy area that he was beginning a foot pursuit with three suspects, two white males and one black male. Shortly after that, his radio communication cut off—leaving police with minimal description of the men.
Minutes later, backup officers arrived and discovered Gliniewicz had been shot and killed. An enormous manhunt followed. Police quickly alerted the public to be on the lookout for the three suspects.
Sources tell Fox News two shell casings were found about 100 feet apart from each other near Gliniewicz’s body, which was discovered face down. His hand was in a gun position, the firearm “dropped at his body.”
One bullet hit Gliniewicz in his bulletproof vest. The second and fatal shot struck him underneath his vest, fired in a downward trajectory, near the heart. There was no sign of a struggle or defensive wounds—especially one to save his own life.
Two weeks after the officer’s death there are more questions than answers as police remain tight-lipped. There have been no arrests. There are no witnesses, suspects or concrete leads in the death of the father of four, who was regarded as a pillar of the community and known as “G.I. Joe.”
The FBI, ATF and Homeland Security participated in the investigation along with the Fox Lake Police Department, under the direction of Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko.
The story gained national attention as teams of media crews flooded the quiet town.
In the following days, Filenko hosted a series of news conferences in which he told reporters and the anxious community that nearby traffic cameras and home surveillance systems captured video depicting what appeared to be the three suspects—but it would take time to verify what was on the tapes.
As the unsolved death investigation carried on into the Labor Day weekend, neighbors and tourists in the picturesque “Chain O’ Lakes” area took to the streets and blue waters with caution. Three “cop killers” were on the run, but people weren’t quite sure who or what they should be looking for.
The tree-lined streets of the quaint community were lined with blue ribbons and signs in Gliniewicz’s honor. A long line formed at a print shop that was giving out free posters depicting Gliniewicz. A local Motorola company offered a $50,000 reward for a tip and information leading to an arrest.
The following Monday, Gliniewicz was given a ceremonial funeral attended by over 5,000 police officers from around the country. Thousands of mourners stood along the streets and in their yards as the procession of over 1,600 police cars took hours to drive the 18-mile route to the cemetery. Gliniewicz was hailed as a hero, the latest officer to be killed in the line of duty.
The next day, one week after Gliniewicz died, Filenko hosted his final news conference to date in which he told the public the three suspects who were caught on tape, as described in Gliniewicz’s radio call, were cleared. Receipts and affidavits showed they were not the cop killers.
Filenko said investigators still consider the officer’s death a homicide and were analyzing crucial DNA found at the crime scene—which they said does not belong to Gliniewicz. But he would not specify what it was.
As the mystery deepens and theories abound, police insist the investigation will be a “marathon not a sprint.”