If you had to pick a few groups of people our society likes to hold up as heroes, there’s no doubt that veterans and police officers would make it onto the list, for obvious reasons. When someone is both a vet and a cop, there’s really no other way to describe them.
That’s why when tragedy strikes and harm befalls that sort of person, it can throw an entire community into mourning. But as is often the case, there might be more to a person than what appears on the surface. As one community would learn, what lies underneath can be utterly shocking…
To many people living in the village of Fox Lake, Illinois, Lt, Gliniewicz was the picture of an ideal small-town cop. Standing at a fit and trim 5-foot-11, his tattoos and recon haircut hinted at his time in the armed forces before he joined the police force before some of the other officers had been born.
Destined For Service
It all started for him back in high school where he’d spent 2 years at the Marmion Military Academy just outside of Chicago. As soon as he graduated from high school, he went right into the Army where he served for 4 years…
Cop For Life
In those 4 years, Gliniewicz rose to the rank of first sergeant. Immediately after leaving the military, he joined the Fox Lake Police Department in April 1985. That would prove to be the only place he would ever work besides the Army.
Just one year into being a policeman, Gliniewicz began helping the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post, an organization that encourages and trains young people for a career in law enforcement. By the next year, Gliniewicz was running the program….
Things were going well for him at that point in his life. He began dating a woman named Melodie and about 2 years into becoming the chief of the local Explorer program, they got married. He also received international attention for all his hard work with the post. Though it was very early, it seemed as if Officer Joseph Gliniewicz was going to have a very distinguished career.
That promise seemed to come true over the next 3 decades as Joe, nicknamed “G. I. Joe” by his colleagues, became Lt. Gliniewicz A significant number of those he’d mentored through the Explorer program had gone on to careers in the military and law enforcement and, one month away from retirement, it seemed as if the Lieutenant’s legacy was secure…
But on the first of September, 2015, Lt .Gliniewicz radioed in to dispatch just before 8 am to tell them he was in pursuit of 3 suspects near an abandoned cement plant. A short time later, he radioed that the suspects had run toward a swamp and that he needed backup.
Just as the backup officers arrived, they heard what sounded like a gunshot. The officers quickly moved to try and locate the source of the sound and in the course of their search, they came across Lt. Gliniewicz’s body…
Signs of Struggle
The late Lieutenant had been struck by 2 bullets, one that was stopped by his bulletproof vest and another that had made it through and killed him. Forensic evidence would later show those bullets came from his own service pistol. Some of his gear, like his flashlight and pepper spray were scattered about around 200 feet from his body, all of which seemed to indicate some kind of struggle.
Lt Gliniewicz death sparked a manhunt by local and federal authorities of the surrounding woods and Wetlands outside of Chicago. His funeral would become a state event, attended by the Governor and receiving media coverage nationwide as people decried his death, blaming it on the “war on cops”…
But early into the search for his killers, FBI investigators noticed something fishy about Lt. Gliniewicz’s death. His cell phone records showed that he had been at the abandoned cement plant for nearly 30 minutes before he radioed dispatchers or help.
Finding The Truth
As investigators gathered more and more forensic evidence and eliminated one potential suspect after another, a disturbing truth gradually became the only possibility. The three men that Lt. Gliniewicz radioed about never existed and there had been no one else there to pull the trigger…
In the words of Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko, Gliniewicz’s death had been a “carefully staged suicide.” The extraordinary claim seemed impossible, even if the evidence pointed toward it. Why would such a respected man kill himself in such a way, just one month short of retirement?
As investigators probed into Gliniewicz’s life for clues about his death, they uncovered a long list of problems in the officer’s career that were completely counter to his all-American image. What’s more, it seemed as if he had been living a double life that was on the cusp of coming crashing down around him…
There were allegations that in 2000, he repeatedly pressured a subordinate female officer into performing oral sex on him.There was also a letter sent to the Mayor in 2009 from “Anonymous Members of the Fox Lake Police Department” accusing Lt. Gliniewicz of sexually harassing and threatening a dispatcher, being thrown out of local bars, taking his family on road trips in his squad car, groping women’s breasts at department Christmas parties, and the most bizarre allegation, that he’d gotten a tattoo while on duty.
Beyond that misconduct, things really began to unravel for Gliniewicz in 2014 when a newly hired Village Administrator named Anne Marrin wanted an accounting and inventory of the Explorer post. Gliniewicz’s cell phone records showed text messages about how Marrin’s questions sent him into a panic…
The reason for that panic is that over at least the last 7 years of his tenure as the head of the Explorer’s Post, Gliniewicz had embezzled “tens of thousands” of dollars, spending it on his mortgage, health clubs, travel, and adult website subscriptions, among other things. His text messages showed that he considered retiring early and even asked a prominent gang member to kill Marrin to avoid being discovered, though the gangster wouldn’t do it.
The day before his death, Gliniewicz sent a text message to the former police chief saying “She has now demanded a complete inventory […] and a financial report….FML” Later that night, he deleted all the text messages from his phone, though they were later recovered by the FBI, in an apparent attempt to prepare for his suicide narrative…
You Think You Know Someone…
When all of this information came out more than 2 months after his death, the news that Lt. Joe Gliniewicz had committed suicide to avoid the consequences of his misdeeds shook Fox Lake to its core. “The person that I thought I knew for 30 years had another side I wasn’t aware of,” said his friend and Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmidt.
“Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community,” said Commander Filenko. Around the town, a community which had put up hundreds of signs in support of their fallen “hero” angrily took them down, some of them even being defaced with just one word: “Liar.”