CHICAGO (AP) – On the day he died, officer Charles Joseph Gliniewicz radioed to a police dispatcher that he was in pursuit of three suspicious men. Moments later, fellow officers found his body and launched a manhunt for his killers.
Three weeks after the lieutenant was shot to death in a remote part of northern Illinois, investigators have revealed little about their investigation. They said they received lab results about ballistics and gunshot residue only Monday, despite the urgency with which police slayings are usually handled. But they declined to offer details, saying the results did not support or exclude any theory in the case.
The coroner says he has been unable to rule the matter a homicide, suicide or an accident – a stance that has deepened longstanding tensions between him and local law enforcement.
“All theories are still on the table,” Lake County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Chris Covelli said Monday in a phone interview, calling it “a very complex investigation.”
Authorities have made no arrests or identified any suspects. The apparent lack of progress has raised concerns about the investigation and left the public in the dark about whether there’s a killer on the loose. Covelli said investigators and the coroner met Monday for the first time to discuss the death of the popular officer known affectionately around the village of Fox Lake as “G.I. Joe.”
The first hint of trouble came when Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd announced that Gliniewicz had been killed by a “single devastating” gunshot wound to his chest, a detail that the head of the task force investigating the case had jealously guarded for several days.
Rudd put “the entire case at risk” by releasing that information, said a furious Lake County Major Crime Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko.
Days later, Rudd learned that investigators had summoned the pathologist in the case without inviting Rudd or even telling him about the meeting.
Until last week, Rudd said, he had not talked to Filenko at all during the course of the investigation nor for several months before that. He would not comment on any friction between the two. Filenko did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
In the days after the officer’s death, scores of officers fanned out across Fox Lake in a manhunt that was widely broadcast on television. They searched through subdivisions and fields, took up positions on rooftops and along railroad tracks, and scanned the terrain through rifle scopes and binoculars. Others leaned out of helicopters with weapons at the ready.
Covelli said Monday that a police dog had tracked away from the crime scene, indicating at least one suspect.
Authorities have said three men whose images were captured by a nearby home surveillance camera did not kill Gliniewicz. DNA found at the scene came from Gliniewicz and an “unknown donor.”
But perhaps the biggest source of questions can be traced to Rudd’s comment that because he had not received the task force’s report, he could not rule out the possibility that Gliniewicz’s death was a suicide or an accident.
Covelli also left the door open to suicide, saying that while the case was being investigated as a homicide, detectives will follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Gliniewicz’s family has dismissed any possibility that he took his own life.
Son D.J. Gliniewicz, whose father was preparing to retire, said the officer “never once” thought of suicide. He told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago that shortly before his death, his father was trying to decide if he wanted to visit Lake Tahoe or Vermont. The son said his father had also applied for several chief-of-police positions.
Though the Gliniewicz family reserved most of its anger for Rudd, the task force has contributed to the speculation.
While both Covelli and Filenko had said the task force was waiting for weeks for scientific evidence tests, other police officers quietly acknowledged that whenever an officer is killed, the case goes to the front of the line for lab work.
A forensics expert agreed.
“This is given the highest priority,” said Larry Kobilinsky, professor of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Everything else is dropped, and it gets looked at immediately.”
Covelli would not discuss details on Monday, saying that divulging the findings would make it harder to assess the truthfulness of any suspects at future interrogations.
“The only two groups of people who should know exactly what happened are the investigators … and the offenders,” Covelli said.
Other tests were not yet in from FBI laboratories in Quantico, Virginia, Covelli said.
Investigators could quiet speculation about suicide if they simply announced whether the bullet that struck the lieutenant’s chest came from his own gun. If another gun were used – a gun not recovered from the scene – then it would be far less likely that Gliniewicz killed himself.
Even absent all the sophisticated tests, detectives could be reasonably sure within days if the gun was used, Kobilinsky said.
They would know, for example, whether his gun was fired, whether the caliber of the bullets in his gun matched bullets from the scene or retrieved from the body. Those tests can be done quickly.
“There is no doubt in my mind as to whether they know it was his gun or not,” he said.
Associated Press writer Michael Tarm contributed to this report.
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