Investigators in Fox Lake officer's death criticize coroner

Image 1 of 2

FOX 32's Craig Wall contributed to this report.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) - Officials leading the investigation into the shooting death of a northern Illinois police officer slammed a county coroner for releasing details they say could jeopardize their case.

Lake County Major Crime Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko and Undersheriff Ray Rose said in a statement Thursday that the release of sensitive case information concerning the death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz is outside of protocol and unprofessional.

"The type of ballistics, wounds, etc., are not released for specific reasons. Those are strictly held back by investigators and it's not our protocol to release that, it could jeopardize the entire case down the road," Filenko said.

Filenko and Rose made the assertions after Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd told the Chicago Tribune that Gliniewicz was shot in the torso. A day earlier, Rudd told multiple media organizations the officer died due to a single "devastating" gunshot wound. He also said his office has not ruled out the possibility of suicide or accident.

But whether it was a homicide or suicide, the coroner would not say because all the evidence is not in.

“We are working on this as if it were a homicide. The task force feels that way, so do I,” Rudd said.

FOX 32: How challenging is this case to determine?

“This is very challenging, because we have very limited evidence of what went on at the scene of this shooting,” Rudd added.

Filenko said in the statement his office had not communicated with Rudd.

"All of the progress made since this tragic incident is potentially in jeopardy. ... 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.

Rudd did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment.

Members of the Major Crimes Task Force, including Filenko and a second investigator, spent about an hour and a half inside the home of Gliniewicz, interviewing family members Thursday afternoon as they continue to try and piece together the case.

"We paid a courtesy call to the victim's wife an updated her on the investigation," Filenko said.

A woman who came out of the home afterwards said the family had no comment.

Gliniewicz, a 30-year police veteran who was nearing retirement, was found dead Sept. 1. He radioed he was chasing three suspects before the shooting, which led to a massive manhunt, but no suspects have been arrested.

Police have so far provided few details about Gliniewicz's slaying, declining to say where Gliniewicz was shot and whether he was shot with his own gun.

The investigation into Gliniewicz's death is moving forward, with county and federal investigators following up on leads and speaking with the community, Lake County sheriff's spokesman Christopher Covelli said in the statement.

Covelli said the task force is awaiting the test results from several items sent to crime laboratories for analysis. Among them is the DNA of an unknown person located at the spot where Gliniewicz's body was found.

Also, sources told FOX 32 that Gliniewicz was also shot in the vest, the bullet hitting his cell phone which was clipped on the vest, and that the shell casing was found a considerable distance away from where his body and the second shell casing was discovered.