An Illinois police officer whose September shooting death led to a massive manhunt committed suicide due to personal and professional pressures, investigators have concluded.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. CST Wednesday to announce “conclusive results” of the investigation into the death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph “Joe” Gliniewicz. However, Fox 32 Chicago and the Associated Press reported late Tuesday that the investigative task force had determined that Gliniewicz shot himself.
Gliniewicz, 52, radioed on Sept. 1 that he was chasing three suspicious men on foot. Backup officers later found his body 50 yards from his squad car.
He was struck by two rounds, one that hit his ballistic vest with the force of a “sledgehammer” and another that pierced his upper chest, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said at the time.
After Gliniewicz’s shooting, a massive manhunt ensued, with hundreds of officers searching houses, cabins and even boats on a chain of area lakes. Authorities released a vague description of three suspects, though no one was ever arrested.
More than 100 investigators stayed on the case for weeks, though questions arose in mid-September, and investigators began to concede that they could not rule out suicide or an accident.
One hint came when Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd announced that Gliniewicz was killed by a “single devastating” shot to his chest. That prompted an angry response from Filenko, who said the release of such details put “the entire case at risk.”
Authorities said in October that the officer was shot with his own weapon.
Gliniewicz’s family has dismissed the suggestion of suicide. His son D.J. Gliniewicz said his father “never once” thought of taking his own life, and he described how his dad spoke excitedly about what he planned to do after retiring. Gliniewicz had four children.
Flags flew at half-staff in honor of the 30-year police veteran after the shooting in Fox Lake, a close-knit community of 10,000 residents located about 50 miles north of Chicago. Signs with the officer’s picture hung in storefront windows.
The tattooed officer with a shaved head was described by those who knew him as tough when needed, but also as sweet and a role model to youngsters aspiring to go into law enforcement. He had also served in the U.S. Army and was affectionately known as “G.I. Joe.”