FOX LAKE, Ill., Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The Illinois police officer first believed to have died in a chase with suspects actually shot himself in an elaborately staged suicide, investigators said Wednesday.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office said Fox Lake, Ill., Lt. Joe Gliniewicz killed himself, motivated by "extensive criminal acts." Investigators said he had been stealing and laundering thousands of dollars over a period of seven years from the Fox Lake Explorers Unit, a group aimed at teaching youngsters about law enforcement. Gliniewicz spent the money, totaling in the five figures, on adult websites, vacations, a gym membership and mortgage payments, among other things.
As Fox Lake police investigators started closing in on Gliniewicz, the pressure was building on the veteran officer, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said.
"This extensive investigation has concluded with an overwhelming amount of evidence that Gliniewicz's death was a carefully staged suicide," Filenko said.
Gliniewicz, 52, was found dead on Sept. 1 after he had radioed he was pursuing three suspicious men on foot.
When officers arrived, Gliniewicz was found bleeding to death with his service weapon nearby. One shot hit his protective vest with the force "similar to that of a sledge hammer hitting you in the side," authorities said. The fatal shot hit him in the upper chest area.
At the time, Lake County officials said they were handling the case as a homicide, conducting a widespread manhunt that turned up no suspects. They pursued other angles, including a self-inflicted gun shot.
Investigators found Gliniewicz staged his death to look like a murder, leaving equipment around the scene. GPS data from the night he died showed he was on foot near the crime scene for about 20 minutes before calling in suspicious activity.
More than 5,000 officers from around the country attended his funeral.