Authorities say an Illinois police officer, whose fatal shooting this summer led to a large-scale manhunt, staged his death after committing a series of criminal acts over a seven-year period.
George Filenko, Lake County major crimes task force commander, announced Wednesday that the death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz in September was a “carefully staged suicide.”
Filenko said that Gliniewicz had “been stealing and laundering money” from the police department's “Explorer Post,” a program for young adults interested in law enforcement careers, and had used thousands of dollars for personal expenses, mortgage payments and adult websites.
Filenko said authorities also recovered electronic messages deleted from Gliniewicz’s personal and work cell phones that included incriminating statements.
The investigation also found that Gliniewicz had “intentionally left a staged trail of police equipment,” including pepper spray and a baton in an effort to “mislead” first responders and investigations into believing his death was a homicide, Filenko said, adding that Gliniewicz had experience staging mock crime scenes for police training purposes.
“There are no winners here,” Filenko said. “[Gliniewicz] committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community.”
Gliniewicz was found wounded on Sept. 1 after reporting that he was pursuing suspects on foot. He later died.
Gliniewicz was shot twice with his weapon. One shot hit the right side of the front of his protective vest, which was severe enough to incapacitate him, and the other, believed to be the fatal wound, struck him in the upper left chest, Filenko earlier said.
Filkenko also said that the probe also strongly indicates “criminal activity on the part of two other individuals,” but that officials would have no further comment on the matter because of the ongoing investigation.
Police have said Gliniewicz had been pursuing three suspects on foot in a remote area when he was shot.
Gliniewicz's death set off a large manhunt, with hundreds of officers searching houses, cabins and boats on area lakes. Helicopters with heat-sensing scanners and K-9 units scoured the area for days. Officials also ordered commuter trains halted, roads blocked and area schools locked down as they conducted a widespread search in a wooded area about 40 miles north of Chicago near the Wisconsin border.
The Federal Aviation Administration also ordered a no-fly zone over the search area.
Around 50 suburban Chicago police departments and sheriff's offices assisted, racking up more than $300,000 in overtime and other costs, according to an analysis that the Daily Herald newspaper published in October.
Hundreds of mourners packed a vigil for Gliniewicz as well as his funeral. Family members described Gliniewicz, 52, a decorated 30-year veteran of the Fox Lake Police Department, known as “G.I. Joe,” as a hero.
Al Jazeera and wire services. Philip J. Victor contributed to this report.