On 1 September, police lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, 52, radioed in to Fox Lake headquarters to say he was pursuing three suspicious individuals on foot. The man many in the town knew as “GI Joe” was later found dead, from a gunshot wound to the chest, a short distance away from his cruiser.
A massive manhunt was set into motion . As the town mourned a beloved community hero, it received an outpouring of national support.
This week, however, a different picture emerged . Gliniewicz’s death, investigators said, was actually a “carefully staged suicide”, carried out to cover up an embezzlement scheme.
Text messages revealed that he had considered framing – or even having killed – a new village administrator who was auditing his department.
His personnel file would tell the story of an officer with a contentious history, including an alleged death threat.
“He used his knowledge to his advantage,” said Lake County, Illinois, sheriff’s spokesperson Christopher Covelli, of Gliniewicz’s three-decade career in law enforcement. “This was intricately done to look like a homicide.”
In a matter of days, Gliniewicz went from hero to villain, rocking this town of 10,000 people some 50 miles north of Chicago.
“Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community,” Lake County major crimes task force commander George Filenko said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The facts of his actions prove he behaved for years in a manner completely contrary to the image he portrayed.”
Gliniewicz had feared being caught embezzling money from the Explorers – Fox Lake’s youth police training program – investigators said, citing selected and released messages from more than 6,500 pages of material taken from Gliniewicz’s phone.
“It was important for the public to see his frame of mind,” Covelli said.
“Used the explorer acct for flight, $624.70,” said one message sent by Gliniewicz, dated 22 June 2015 and sent to recipient named publicly as “Individual 1”.
Another, dated 26 June 2015 and sent to “Individual 2”, said: “I’m sticking my neck out there with loaning you over $2377.00 to fix your truck specifically and only to help accommodate your summer leave, trip to OK.”
Anne Marrin, the Fox Lake village administrator, also spoke at Wednesday’s press conference.
“There were some questions and issues with the police department Explorer program,” she said.
Text messages released by investigators show Gliniewicz’s mounting anxiety as Marrin began conducting her routine audit of his department. The day before his death, he messaged former Fox Lake police chief Michael Behan , referring to the new village administrator: “She has now demanded a complete inventory of exploder [Explorer] central and a financial report … FML.”
Behan retired in August after being placed on administrative leave during a separate internal investigation. Covelli could not confirm or deny whether Behan was being investigated regarding financial matters, as the investigation was ongoing.
The Lake County sheriff’s department is investigating financial crimes relating to Gliniewicz. Covelli said federal authorities were also conducting a separate investigation, but he could not comment on its subject.
Messages released by investigators suggested Gliniewicz had considered taking drastic action against Marrin.
Individual 1: “Hopefully she decides to get a couple drinks in her and she gets a dui [driving under the influence citation].”
Gliniewicz: “She does, but not around here an no one knows where. Trust me ive thoughtit through MANY SCENARIOUS from planting things to volo bog!!!”
Small packets of cocaine were found in Gliniewicz’s desk, leading investigators to hypothesize a plan to plant them on Marrin. Volo Bog is a marshy area in a nearby nature reserve.
Covelli confirmed that Gliniewicz also suggested an associate contact a high-ranking gang member, to put a hit out on Marrin. Covelli said investigators interviewed that gang member, who said he did not have any knowledge of the situation.
More than 100 pages of Gliniewicz’s personnel file, meanwhile, released earlier this week, showed a history of complaints against the officer.
A 2009 letter sent to Fox Village’s mayor by anonymous members of the police department list more than 20 complaints against Gliniewicz, including public intoxication, sexual harassment and personal use of a police vehicle.
In 2003, a dispatcher said Gliniewicz had told her he would put “bullets in her chest”, according to the personnel file.
Gliniewicz’s family has remained silent since investigators released the new information, only requesting privacy in a statement released through attorneys. Covelli could not confirm or deny that Gliniewicz’s wife and son were being investigated regarding financial crimes, as reported by the Associated Press.
‘He’s been a good friend to a lot of us’
In Fox Lake, life goes on. Feelings are mixed. There are still a few blue ribbons tied around trees and some memorial signs, put up to honor Gliniewicz following his death, remain in place.
“It’s small towns like this where they get away with so much,” said Ashley Scott, who works at a Fox Lake bakery. “He died from police corruption. Whether he died from his own, or if it’s an inside job, it’s the police, either way.”
She added: “There’s still a lot they’re not telling us. I want to know what’s going on in the department.”
One friend of Gliniewicz, who declined to give her name, said he used to make sure she got home safe after working night shifts at a local bar.
“He’s been a good friend to a lot of us,” she said, showing that she still wore a bracelet honoring Gliniewicz. “I honestly don’t know what to believe. A lot of people feel the same.”
Scott said: “Just because he made a mistake, does that take away everything good that he did?”
Another resident, who also declined to give her name, said she was waiting for more information before forming an opinion. Many in the village, she said, were doing the same.
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