The FBI is stepping up its role in the probe of an Illinois police officer's mysterious death two months ago, mounting a comprehensive study of Joseph Gliniewicz's mental state in an effort to determine if he was murdered or died by his own hand.
The Fox Lake, Ill., cop's death on Sept. 1, as the nation was gripped by anti-police sentiment, was at first believed to be murder. The 52-year-old police lieutenant was gunned down with his own service weapon in a rural area after he radioed that he was on foot, chasing three suspects. His description of the trio, one black male and two white males, fueled early suspicion that there may have been a racial angle to his murder. But after two months, the investigation by local authorities with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force has revealed more questions than answers, and the FBI, which was already assisting, is ratcheting up its role.
“I saw nothing that would indicate anything that he would take his own life.”
- Donny Schmit, mayor of Fox Lake, Ill.
The bureau will compile its own victimology report, which is a comprehensive study of a victim’s behavior, mental state and actions. In the case of Gliniewicz, investigators are examining his professional and personal life to find clues as to what may have led to his death. Already, there has been speculation that Gliniewicz may have been distraught about an internal police department asset and inventory check.
“To an extent, the internal review of assets is [tied to our investigation] because it was something he was a part of, so it can’t be discounted,” Lake County Task Force spokesman Chris Covelli told Fox News.
The exact nature of Gliniewicz’s involvement in that review is not clear. Fox News has submitted multiple requests for details under the Freedom Of Information Act, but the Village of Fox Lake has declined the requests-- citing an active investigation.
The FBI’s independent report might serve as a relief to those who have questioned the integrity and lengthiness of the Lake County investigation. Since Gliniewicz’s death there’s been rampant speculation about how he died. Two separate sources close to the case have told Fox News evidence suggests he might have committed suicide.
“I look forward to a conclusion and a determination on the death,” said Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit. “I have all the confidence in the world in the Major Crimes Task Force.”
Sometime in the near future, both the FBI and the task force will submit their reports to the Lake County coroner, who will ultimately rule a cause of death.
Schmit, a longtime friend of Gliniewicz, told Fox News he met with Gliniewicz the day before he died. The married father of four did not act out of the ordinary, according to Schmit, although he said he wanted to retire sooner than expected -- within a month or so.
“I saw nothing that would indicate anything that he would take his own life,” Schmit said.
Schmit says Glineiwicz also asked about the Explorer program – a realistic, intense “citizen academy” for teens and young adults. Gliniewicz had worked with the program for several years and was well-respected for his dedication.
“His concern was keeping the Explorer program going,” Schmit said.
Adding to the frenzy of the investigation, Fox Lake Police Chief Michael Behan also made headlines when it was revealed he resigned just days before Gliniewicz’s death. Police say Behan, a veteran officer of 33 years, is under an internal investigation into an alleged police brutality incident that happened last December. Officers say Gliniewicz had nothing to do with this separate case.
“It’s just been the perfect storm of bad timing and we miss our fellow officer and the loss of leadership at the police department,” Schmit said.
Fox News also has learned that Gliniewicz’s wife will be entitled to the officer’s pension regardless of the manner of his death, according to the pension board attorney, Laura Goodloe. The officer’s pension equates to about 75 percent of his near six-figure salary. Gliniewicz’s wife can file for the line-of-duty death benefits, which would provide her with 100 percent of his annual salary. However, the pension board would have to vote to approve the additional funding.
More than 5,000 police officers from around the country attended Gliniewicz’s funeral, which was broadcast live across the U.S.
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC