One of the country’s top medical examiners told Fox News Thursday he did not think it was inappropriate for an Illinois coroner to talk with reporters in the midst of an investigation into the mysterious death of a veteran police officer.
“That makes sense that the coroner can speak out,” said Dr. Michael Baden, the former New York City chief medical examiner. “It’s his judgment whether it’s appropriate or not.”
The debate began in the days following the death of 52-year-old Lieutenant Joseph Gliniewicz, who was found shot to death shortly after he radioed in he was on a foot pursuit of three suspects in a remote area near Fox Lake, Ill.
Residents were puzzled when the coroner, Dr. Thomas Rudd, and lead investigators from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force revealed they were not in contact with each other about the investigation.
“We have not been contacted by or had communication with Doctor Rudd,” Lake County Major Crimes Task Commander George Filenko said in a press release.
As police remained tight-lipped about the exact manner of the officer’s death, it was commonly speculated and reported online that Gliniewicz was shot in the head or in the back of the neck.
Rudd told Fox News he felt it was necessary to independently speak with the media to clarify that Gliniewicz was actually shot in the torso.
“Normally I wouldn’t speak to this but since that’s out there I think I want to squelch that—that there are no shots to the head or neck,” Rudd told Fox News.
In response, the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force sent out a press release bashing Rudd for revealing what it considered damaging information that could jeopardize the case.
“This is an active investigation and it’s inappropriate for anyone other than the investigating body to release information to the media, prior to providing a final written report of the findings, or even having a conversation with the Task Force,” Filenko said in the release.
However Baden, a leading expert who has investigated more than 3,000 homicides, told Fox News he understands Rudd’s decision, and that it’s not uncommon for coroners to give information to dispel major rumors, especially those involving a police officer’s death.
“I think it’s a good sign to have independence between the coroner and police but at the same time it’s best if they can work cooperatively together,” Baden said.
Two-and-a-half weeks after the shooting death police say they still are waiting on the ballistics and forensic results, which Baden says could take a considerable amount of time.
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC