The Fox Lake, Illinois, police lieutenant whose suicide was initially believed to be a homicide that sparked a massive manhunt was “stealing and laundering” money from the department’s Police Explorers program, which he oversaw, investigators revealed Wednesday.
The death of Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, 52, “was a carefully staged suicide,” Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmd. George Filenko said during a news conference Wednesday morning announcing the findings.
Gliniewicz was involved in “extensive criminal acts” and stole “in the five figure range” of dollars from the department, using the money for personal expenses, gym memberships, adult websites and his mortgage, Filenko said.
It was “the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community,” Filenko said.
Gliniewicz knew about an internal police investigation looking into finances, among other issues, and was under increasing pressure, Filenko said. On the day of his suicide, Gliniewicz “intentionally staged the scene” to make it appear as if he had been murdered, Filenko said.
“Eventually, the internal audits the village was performing were going to lead to that Explorer fund,” Filenko said.
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Filenko said that in an attempt to mislead officers, Gliniewicz left a trail of equipment that officers discovered, including a canister of pepper spray, his police baton and his eyeglasses.
It took officers 90 minutes to an hour to find his semi-automatic service weapon, which turned out to be located two-and-a-half feet above his head, well concealed in a grassy, overgrown area, Filenko said.
Gliniewicz, a 32-year police veteran, was discovered dead on Sept. 1 after he radioed that he was chasing “three suspicious subjects” on foot. Responding officers said they heard a gunshot before they found his body in a marshy, remote area. Hundreds of officers then searched for the purported killers, prompting the closure of local schools and airspace.
But after a two-month investigation, authorities announced on Wednesday that Gliniewicz had killed himself, managing to shoot himself twice in the torso with his own gun. The first shot lodged in his bulletproof vest and caused bruising, authorities said at the press conference. The second shot went under his vest and killed him.
During the case, 150 investigators spent 25,000 hours reviewing 6,500 pages of text messages Gliniewicz had deleted from his phone, 40,000 emails and other data, said Lake County Sheriff’s Det. Chris Covelli.
Filenko said that some of Gliniewicz’s text messages contained “extremely incriminating statements” pertaining to the Explorer funds “in his own words.”
Added Lake County Coroner Dr. Tom Rudd, “I think he knew there was the possibility of incarceration. His view in the community would be greatly diminished.”