Lake County Lead Investigator Filenko Grilled by Press as Citizens Have Trouble Accepting Gliniewicz Suicide Conclusion


Many citizens in Lake County are having a hard time accepting the information Wednesday that Fox Lake Police Department Lt. Joe Gliniewicz committed suicide on Tuesday, September 1, 2015. After suspecting earlier that three offenders may have killed Gliniewicz in a desolate area, now police say they don’t know whether Gliniewicz totally made up the three suspicious suspects, or saw them and incorporated the subjects into his staged homicide/actual suicide. Police also report they have evidence that shows that Gliniewicz was embezzling funds, and was stealing and laundering money from the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post for seven years.

When Gliniewicz reported the three suspicious suspects on the morning he died, he initially denied any police backup. That’s unusual for a veteran police officer, considering the area where he would encounter the subjects was desolate and dangerous. Additionally, the radio report of a pursuit never sounded like most police foot pursuits, when police officer’s voices are excited and out of breath while running. If anything Gliniewicz’s voice was extremely calm.

For over two months, police were very tight-lipped — referring to protecting the integrity of the investigation. With over a week following the shooting, police did not release whether Gliniewicz was killed by his own gun or not. The sheriff’s office also said that they were not able to comment on the exact number of shots fired, as it was confidential information critical to the investigation. The prolonged silence has some Lake County residents and media wondering whether police were protecting the integrity of the investigation, or the integrity of a cover-up. Or were the Lake County investigators delayed while struggling with the disbelief and confirmation that one of their own officers committed such a deep betrayal. Investigators would also need to diligently investigate the possibility of criminal associates or accomplices that may have been interested in silencing Gliniewicz. On Wednesday night, FOX 32 reported knowledge that only Gliniewicz’s wife and son, Melodie and D.J., are under investigation related to the Explorer Post embezzlement.

During the investigation, police would be asking, who else knew about Gliniewicz’s crimes. And they would be investigating to rule out whether any criminal associates could have staged Gliniewicz’s homicide to prevent Gliniewicz from implicating them in a more extended criminal operation, or in other unknown criminal operations. After all, police were initially led to believe there was a possible struggle — what they now say they believe was a staged crime scene. Could any associates of Gliniewicz’s criminal activities have been some of the first responders or investigators that were first on the Gliniewicz death scene? And could those hypothetical investigators have worked to preserve the integrity of their staged crime? Further investigation will probably answer these questions.

In the release yesterday, authorities never discussed flash burns on Gliniewicz’s hands, and they did not discuss any information about fingerprints on the gun. However, authorities at the press conference revealed extensive details about the fatal bullet pathway and a “shored” exit wound from a second shot, and damage to the bulletproof vest and cell phone from the first shot, which did not enter Gliniewicz’s skin. Authorities also explained that gunshot residue was found underneath the bulletproof vest carrier, which they said would indicate the gun was placed under the bulletproof vest to allow the bullet to enter the body for the fatal shot. Authorities also said the gun was found about 2 1/2 feet above Gliniewicz’s head. When asked why the gun wasn’t immediately found, authorities said it was located in thick brush, where you would practically have to step on the gun to find it. There is some reason for skepticism that a gun placed under a bulletproof vest, and held there firmly for firing, would fall with enough force to land 2 1/2 feet above Gliniewicz’s head — traveling through thick brush. While hearing Gliniewicz shot himself twice is difficult to believe and unlikely, it is possible. However, when you start adding up “unlikelies”, the whole report starts to become more unbelievable.

Meanwhile in the two-month period, residents were worried about their own public safety, and some residents in the area were asked to submit to police property searches and DNA swabs.

The strange and twisted case is awfully complex, and requires objectivity.

When a police officer is involved in a crash or a shooting that involves a serious injury or fatality in the northwest suburbs, the Illinois State Police investigate the incident as an objective third party; but in the fatal Fox Lake case, the Lake County Sheriff’s Major Crime Task Force investigated the case. George Filenko is the lead investigator of the Glineiwicz case, but he is also the Police Chief of Round Lake Police Department — a neighboring community of Fox Lake.

At a press conference Thursday October 1, 2015, Filenko said that according to the investigation’s findings, “there were indications that there was a struggle that took place at the crime scene.” But one month later, at the November 3, 2015 press conference, Filenko said there were no physical signs that Gliniewicz fought for his life, or that his body was dragged — adding there were no injuries to his hands, and his uniform was not disheveled. This doesn’t necessarily suggest that Filenko’s statements were misleading, but it does suggest why the whole case is confusing to the public. And it illustrates the difficulty police officers face in the challenging information age when much is released in real time.

The media at the press conference yesterday grilled Filenko — asking if police misled the public. The media were especially upset with the early denial of the suicide hypothesis, the operations that put the public through intense searches, and the occurrence of an expensive hero’s memorial when investigators might have suspected a suicide all along. Regarding the investigators’ suppression of the suicide theory, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office was unhappy with Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd when he was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying, “Right now, all unnatural deaths are up for suggestion. That means homicide, suicide, accident, undetermined.” All Rudd really said was that all options were open, but the Lake County Sheriff’s Office over-reacted.

Undersheriff Raymond Rose said, “Doctor Rudd’s actions are completely outside of policy, procedure, protocols, and are completely unprofessional. The Coroner should not release sensitive case information while an investigation is still underway, it’s completely irresponsible.” Undersheriff Rose added in the release posted on the sheriff office’s Facebook page, “It is outrageous Doctor Rudd would speculate as to Lieutenant Gliniewicz’ fighting abilities with absolutely no foundation or basis as to what took place at the crime scene.”

Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko said, “We have not been contacted by or had communication with Doctor Rudd.” He went on to say, “Doctor Rudd, releasing information which is sensitive to this investigation, puts the entire case at risk. All of the progress made since this tragic incident is potentially in jeopardy. 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.”

On the morning of the crime, an initial Officer Safety Alert from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office on the Illinois State Police Emergency Radio Network notified area police officers at about 8:18 a.m. Tuesday that a male/white and a male/black fled from the scene and took the officer’s sidearm and pepper spray after shots were fired. That was about 26 minutes after Gliniewicz first notified dispatch he was checking on suspicious subjects near 128 Honing Road at 7:52 a.m. [Later the description was expanded to three suspects.]

Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko later sternly replied in a press conference that media better check their sources, when he was asked about the officer’s weapon being taken from the scene. That was a rather obstructive response from Filenko, because Filenko would have or should have known by then that police radio traffic accessible to the media and the general public transmitted that the gun and pepper spray were missing. Whether the radio transmission was correct or incorrect, Filenko didn’t show respect for the media’s interpretation of the information; instead he remained terse and condescending toward the media. He could have been more accommodating with the media, and explain that they might have been misled by a radio transmission that may have been incorrect.

He did add that in the initial chaos at the scene, it would be possible that initial backup officers arriving at the scene would not notice the weapon on the ground at the scene — still being secretive about the radio transmission that alerted fellow officers that the weapon and pepper spray were missing.

When Filenko was asked if he felt he owed the public an apology, Filenko said no. “We go where the facts lead us,” he said. “We don’t jump to conclusions. We work on facts.”

Following the work of 150 separate investigators with over 250,000 hours of work; 430 leads; 250 pieces of evidence (including swabs of DNA from nearby residents); 6,500 text messages from Gliniewicz’s cell phone; 30,000 phone numbers checked; 40,000 emails reviewed, and approximately $300,000 in related expenditures; the Lake County Major Task Force determined that Gliniewicz’s death was a suicide.

Some Lake County residents are skeptical of Det. George Filenko’s commitment to the avoidance of jumping to conclusions when they recall the story of his interrogation of suspect Melissa Calusinski. She was eventually convicted of murdering toddler Benjamin Kingan at a daycare center in Lincolnshire in Lake County in 2009. Calusinski confessed to throwing the toddler on the floor during a 14-hour interrogation with no meals and without an attorney present.

Comments by Filenko During Calusinski Interrogation

All you need to do is tell us the truth and we’re done.

You know 100 percent. We know what happened, but we need you to tell us. Tell us what happened.

We’re not going anywhere until we get the facts here.

We’re gonna give you another opportunity… to either be a good witness or a co-conspirator in a murder.

That story you’re giving us is a load of s—…

We’re not here to condemn you. We’re not here to put you in jail…

The doctor’s telling us that there’s a lot more to this than just that.

Medical evidence … it just doesn’t lie.

This is absolutely crap. That may have happened … But that’s not what caused the injury.

Show us how angry you were, and show us what happened, and let’s just get this over with and move on.

Not much longer … We’re on the phone right now. We’re trying to get this done as quickly as possible (when Melissa asked Filenko, “I’m just kind of curious, how long much more, ’cause …”).

Before the Gliniewicz case, there was already some potential for conflict between coroner Thomas Rudd and Det. George Filenko. Dr. Thomas Rudd, a new Lake County coroner since the 2009 case, expressed disagreement with the previous coroner’s finding that there was no previous head injury of the victim, Benjamin Kingan. Rudd examined evidence and found signs of a previous injury.

On 48 Hours on CBS, Rudd said the former coroner Dr. Eupil Choi made a glaring error when he said Ben was severely injured on the day he died. “It’s obvious that injury was old.” Rudd also said there was no sign of a skull fracture, as previously determined, and changed the cause of death of Benjamin Kingan from “homicide” to “undetermined.”

Rudd said on 48 hours, “I do not see any evidence that she (Calusinki) did it (killed Benjamin) other than her confession.” And her confession has been described as troubling. Melissa now says she can’t explain why she told police she killed Benjamin Kingan.

The Benjamin Kingan murder investigation was wrapped up in about 14 short investigation hours after Melissa Calusinski spent 14 long human hours with police in interrogation without her parents or a lawyer or a meal.

She confessed while under pressure, but then immediately recanted during transfer in a police car. The recantation was apparently ignored even though the interrogators, Det. Sean Curran and Det. George Filenko continuously rejected her initial denials.

“It’s easy from the outside to say, ‘Oh, I’d never do it.’ [Make a false confession] And then the answer is, ‘Yeah, but you’ve never been in that spot.’…You haven’t been pinned in a room with these two big detectives. …You’ve never been the last one in a room with a child that’s dying.”

— Melissa’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner

Melissa’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner also says Benjamin’s injuries are inconsistent with the mechanism of injury described by her confession.

On Wednesday night, FOX 32 News also reported that the United States Justice Department has also opened an investigation into the Gliniewicz case, but it is unknown why.

Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko is grilled by reporters for “concealing” the possible suicide scenario earlier during the investigation.

See also …

NBC News Authorities: ‘Struggle Took Place’ Before Fox Lake, Illinois Officer Was Shot to Death

Chicago Tribune Fox Lake officer’s fatal wound was to his torso: coroner


NBC 5 Chicago Coroner: X-Rays Show Toddler’s Daycare Death May Not Have Been Worker’s Fault

FOX 32 Chicago Wife, son of Lt. Joe Gliniewicz are under criminal investigation

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