Fox Lake Manhunt Closes in One Area, but Wider Search Continues

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Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, a 32-year veteran of the Fox Lake, Illinois Police Department was shot and killed Tuesday, September 1, 2015. Police and federal officials searched the suburb north of Chicago for three suspects wanted in the shooting.

Three suspects remain on the lam, and while authorities continue to look for them in connection with a Fox Lake, Illinois, policeman’s death, the search has been called off in the immediate area where Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was slain, police said Wednesday.

This, after investigators marked off a 2-square-mile area across tricky terrain and brought in helicopters, canine units, federal agents, night-vision equipment and body-heat sensors. Police cleared every home in the cordoned-off area, while fielding more than 100 tips, Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko told CNN.

The tips are arriving via phone calls and social media from all over the nation, and from as far away as England and Australia, he said, encouraging the public to continue reporting anything suspicious.

“As always, we’re relying on the public,” he said. “All it takes is one tip or good lead to break a case wide open.”

Authorities are in talks with the federal government about a potential reward for information leading to the arrests of Gliniewicz’s killers, Filenko said.

The suspects — two white men and one black man — may have left town, or even the state, Filenko said. Their races were the only description gleaned from the “initial radio traffic” between Gliniewicz and dispatchers, he said. Police have no evidence suggesting the suspects are still in the area or traveling together.

Police are canvassing the area and conducting “saturation patrols” in an effort to continue the search and follow up on new leads, Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Christopher Covelli told reporters.

“We’re going to go hand in hand with the residents of Fox Lake to ensure their safety at this time,” he said.

A 17-minute timeline

So far, police have found no witnesses, but they recovered surveillance tape from businesses and residences in the area. The quality of the video is not promising, but investigators were going through it Wednesday afternoon, Filenko said.

Gliniewicz, a 30-year police veteran, was on his way in to work Tuesday morning, in the cruiser that he had taken home the day before, when he saw three suspicious people, Filenko said. This would not have been unusual as Gliniewicz was the type of officer who considered himself on-duty as soon as he rolled into town, he said.

The lieutenant made the first call at 7:52 a.m. and called three minutes later to request backup. The backup units arrived at 8:01 and found their fellow officer dead, roughly 50 yards from his vehicle, at about 8:09, Filenko said.

An autopsy was completed, but authorities aren’t releasing the results yet, Filenko said. The Northern Illinois Police Crime Laboratory is expediting its review of evidence to determine whether there was any fingerprint or DNA transfer. Technicians should have that analysis finished within a “day or so,” he said.

A challenging search

The FBI, U.S. Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined in the hunt. More than 400 law enforcement officers raked through the heavy woods near Fox Lake on foot, all-terrain vehicles and horseback.

Hampering the search was the landscape where the manhunt unfolded. It’s a mix of abandoned buildings, occupied by squatters, and residential and commercial properties situated among heavily wooded areas and a marsh. Some of the terrain is overgrown and swampy, and railroad tracks run through a portion of the area. Tuesday’s intense sun didn’t help matters.

Local police officers have volunteered to come in while they’re off duty, and other law enforcement officers in the surrounding area have called to offer their assistance, Filenko said.

Officers were conducting a secondary review of the crime scene, “turning over every leaf and blade of grass to see if there’s anything out there they may have missed,” he said.

Authorities have employed 45 dogs in their search, along with six aircraft, Covelli said. Nearby residents saw SWAT teams searching yards, CNN affiliate WLS said. Officers also went house to house looking for clues.

“I hope they catch them soon,” neighbor Brenda Day said, “because I’m a single mom of three, and I’m scared.”

School officials were anxious, too. Several Illinois school districts, including Fox Lake, Gavin and Big Hollow, were closed Wednesday, the Grant Community High School website said.

Asked whether he had a deadline for calling off the search, Filenko seemed to bristle at the question and responded, “I’m not going to set a time limit on this. I have a murdered colleague. … We’re not going to stop.”

More than an officer

Gliniewicz’s passion for police work went far beyond what he was paid to do.

He helped lead the Fox Lake Police Department Explorer Post, which mentors young people interested in careers in law enforcement, WLS said.

Gliniewicz, known as “G.I. Joe,” was supposed to retire at the end of this month. The day before he was killed, Gliniewicz, 52, met with the mayor to discuss his retirement plans and to make sure the Explorer program continued without him, according to WLS.

“He loved his community and loved his job, and he will be very sorely missed in this community,” Grant Township supervisor Catherine “Kay” Starostovic said.

Gliniewicz was an Army veteran who served in active duty and reserve from 1980 to 2007. He left the military with the rank of first sergeant.

The lieutenant is survived by a wife and four children.

His death marks the 24th time an officer has been shot and killed in the line of duty this year. Just last week, a sheriff’s deputy in Houston was gunned down while he was fueling his patrol car.

“It is a very tough time to be a police officer at this moment,” CNN law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander said. “However, these men and women that are out there doing this job, they’re not going to stop doing it.”

A vigil for Gliniewicz is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Fox Lake’s Lakefront Park.