Search continues for 3 suspects in Fox Lake officer's death

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FOX LAKE, Ill. (AP / STMW) - Authorities broadened the hunt Wednesday for three suspects wanted in the fatal shooting of a popular Illinois police officer, even as they acknowledged that they had no indication the men were still in the area where the slaying happened.

After an intensive 14-hour "grid search" of homes, railroad tracks and marshland in the village of Fox Lake, the second-day manhunt turned to the painstaking detective work of chasing down tips, collecting and reviewing surveillance video and interviewing residents near the crime scene. Meanwhile, new search teams rippled out into subdivisions beyond the initial 2-square-mile perimeter established on Tuesday. At least 100 investigators were on the ground.

A major challenge was the lack of a description of the suspects beyond the vague one that came from the officer, who told dispatchers he was pursuing three suspicious men -- two white, one black -- moments before he was shot.

"That was the only description provided," said Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko, the lead investigator on the case. "So of course we're getting the public calling in every time they see that match of three individuals or even two individuals. We've closed out those leads completely as being unsubstantiated."

Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a 30-year police veteran, was shot Tuesday morning while pursuing the men he spotted on his way to work, Filenko said. Gliniewicz told dispatchers the three ran into a swampy area, and he requested a second unit.

Dispatchers soon lost contact with him. Backup officers found him about 50 yards from his squad car with a gunshot wound. He died soon after.

Filenko said there was no indication he was intentionally targeted, though authorities did not rule out that possibility.

The initial, frenzied search for his killers involved law enforcement agencies from across the state. Some wore tactical gear and toted high-powered rifles. Officers took up positions on rooftops and along railroad tracks and scanned the terrain through rifle scopes and binoculars. Others leaned out of helicopters with weapons at the ready.

On Tuesday night, they declared the initial search zone clear, allowing investigators to begin poring over the crime scene and surrounding area.

Still, they knocked on doors with caution.

"I believe that the search teams did a thorough job, but I know there have been a number of national incidents where suspects have cleverly escaped or hidden in place," Filenko said. "So anything's possible."

Investigators were reviewing video recordings, but so far none has captured images of the suspects, Filenko said.

Despite the challenges, he told reporters that he felt the teams were making progress.

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

"We had over 400 police officers out here yesterday. We had over 45 canine units and numerous aircraft," Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli said, adding that officers would now conduct "saturation patrols" in a wider area.

“I’m not going to put a time limit on this. We’ve got a murdered colleague,” Filenko said. “We’re not gonna stop.”

Residents of the usually sleepy village were urged to stay indoors.

An emotional Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit described the slain officer as a personal friend, a three-decade member of the department and a father of four sons.

READ MORE | Manhunt underway after Fox Lake police officer fatally shot

"We lost a family member," Schmit said of the 52-year-old officer known around town as "GI Joe." "His commitment to the people of this community has been unmatched and will be dearly missed."

The area near the Wisconsin border area is popular for boating and other outdoor pursuits because of its forest preserves and a chain of lakes that partly encircles Fox Lake. Some longtime city dwellers move to the region for what is normally a quieter lifestyle.

A close friend of the slain officer, said Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, started his days “vertical and caffeinated.”

Gliniewicz would head off first thing to the “snap cave,” which is what he called the Snap Fitness gym, where he worked out. Then he would post a weather report on Facebook for all of his followers to plan their day.

Dave Torkilsen, a retired captain of the Antioch Fire Department, where Gliniewicz’s brother Mike is a firefighter, was one of those followers and one of Gliniewicz´s best friends. Torkilsen grew up in Antioch with Mike and Joe Gliniewicz and has known the brothers for years.

“He was always positive and very upbeat,” Torkilsen said. “I don´t think I ever saw him without a smile on his face.”

Torkilsen said Gliniewicz was in fantastic shape for a 52-year-old man and frequently participated in extreme obstacle races, such as the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder Mud Run.

“I think he could have overcome those three guys,” Torkilsen said. “Somebody had to get him to the ground.”

As a high-ranking official, Gliniewicz often handled administrative work, so Torkilsen said he was surprised that he was out on the road yesterday. Although “G.I. Joe,” as Gliniewicz was nicknamed, Torkilsen said he is not at all surprised that he would take on extra duties if needed.

“He was going to retire last month,” Torkilsen said. “The papers were on his desk. They asked him to stay on because he was just so valuable.”

Meanwhile, the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force has taken over the main investigation and is following leads, Covelli said.

“We’re not searching in an enclosed perimeter area anymore,” he said. “But we are saturating the area. I would describe it as numerous police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers in the area continuing to look for the offenders, continuing to investigate suspicious activity and being available for residents.”

Commuter train service was halted, and residents who wanted to take their dogs out to relieve themselves were told to stay inside, with the job of walking the pets handled by police officers.

Several schools were locked down Tuesday, and seven canceled classes on Wednesday, Covelli said.

Gliniewicz's death is the third law enforcement fatality in Illinois this year, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. It says firearms-related deaths in the U.S. are down 13 percent this year compared to the same period last year, Jan. 1. to Sept. 1; there were 30 last year and 26 this year.

Fox Lake residents expressed sorrow at the death of the immensely popular Gliniewicz.

REMEMBERING A HERO | Fox Lake officer fatally shot was a veteran cop, father of 4

"This particular officer is a pillar in my community and (is) definitely going to be missed, and (he) touched so many lives," said Gina Maria, a 40-year-old teacher.

Dozens gathered for hours along a street in the village to show their support for law enforcement officers. Thirty-year-old Dan Raminick, who held a sign reading "Police Lives Matter," said officers came by Tuesday evening and thanked the crowd.

Caitlyn Kelly, a 22-year-old student, said she felt compelled to come out after other recent police shootings. She held a sign that said "Blue and Brave."

Another longtime friend, Tammy Rivette, wiped away tears as she remembered the father of four who was "always helping people" and "always fair."

"Even the criminals liked him," she said.

Rivette once sought help when someone appeared to be stalking her niece. Gliniewicz contacted the man and "had a nice long chat with him," she recalled.

"And it ended right there," she said.

Workers at the Sign Appeal store in Fox Lake were making window signs honoring Gliniewicz. They read, "All gave some ... some gave all."

Elsewhere, 17-year-old Devan Arvay held a black flag with a blue line across it in memory of Gliniewicz. Arvay was in a police Explorers post, which introduces young people to possible police careers. Gliniewicz led the group for four years.

"He was always enthused and someone you could really look up to," Arvay said. "A mentor is what he was."

 Eleven-year-old Takoa Thomas, a sixth grader, stood on the side of a road with a handmade sign that read "Cops' lives matter. RIP GI Joe."

"I wanted to be out here to show support," the boy said.

His mother, Tara England, 41, said the boy's school was closed, and she had mixed feelings about their safety.

"One of the reasons I'm out here is I don't want to be home alone," she said. "My husband's at work."

"But if it were me, I'd be long gone," she said of the suspects.

Gliniewicz's death is the third law enforcement fatality in Illinois this year, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks officers' deaths so their names can be enshrined on a Washington, D.C., memorial.

It says police shooting deaths in the U.S. are down 13 percent this year compared with the same January-to-September period last year. There were 30 last year and 26 this year.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned the recent fatal shootings, telling a housing conference in Washington that violence against "all of us, regardless of what uniform any of us wear" must end.

Lynch said it's a "sad fact now" that no one is safe.

The next day, when he first learned that an officer had been shot, the mayor texted Gliniewicz, "Hey Joe. Call in right away. We need you," Schmit said. "And then I found out it was him."