Fox Lake Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz committed suicide: Illinois police

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Official Says Illinois Cop's Death That Led to a Manhunt Was a Suicide

ROUND LAKE BEACH, Ill. (AP) -- A police officer who was lauded as a hero after his fatal shooting triggered an intense and costly manhunt in fact committed suicide, carefully staging his death because he was about to be exposed as a thief, authorities said Wednesday.

Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz embezzled thousands of dollars from the Fox Lake Police Explorer program for seven years, and spent the money on such things as mortgage payments, travel expenses, gym memberships and adult websites, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said.

Related: Illinois Police Officer's Death 'to Be Ruled Likely Suicide'

"We have determined this staged suicide was the end result of extensive criminal acts that Gliniewicz had been committing in fact he was under increasing levels of personal stress from scrutiny of his management of the Fox Lake Police Explorer program," Filenko said.

The commander then endured blistering questions from skeptical journalists about his handling of the two-month investigation.

"We completely believed from day one that this was a homicide," Filenko said. "Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal."

Related: Authorities: 'Struggle Took Place' Before Fox Lake Officer Was Shot to Death

Just before he died, Gliniewicz radioed that he was chasing three suspicious men in a swampy area near Fox Lake, a suburb north of Chicago. Backup officers later found the Army veteran's body about 50 yards from his squad car. His handgun wasn't found for more than an hour, even though it was less than three feet from the body, Filenko said.

Gliniewicz's death on Sept. 1 set off a large manhunt, with hundreds of officers searching houses, cabins and even boats on area lakes. Helicopters with heat-sensing scanners and K-9 units scoured the area for days. Some 50 suburban Chicago police departments and sheriff's offices assisted, racking up more than $300,000 in overtime and other costs, according to an analysis that the Daily Herald newspaper published in early October.

See photos from the manhunt that ensued after Charles Joseph Gliniewicz's death:

18 PHOTOS
Illinois Manhunt, Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz
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Fox Lake Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz committed suicide: Illinois police
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 02: Residents and police from Fox Lake and surrounding communities attend a vigil for slain Fox Lake police officer Lt. Joe Gliniewicz on September 2, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. Gliniewicz was shot and killed yesterday during a foot chase with three suspects who remain at large. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 02: Officers salute as the family of slain Fox Lake police officer Lt. Joe Gliniewicz arrive for a vigil held in his honor on September 2, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. Gliniewicz was shot and killed yesterday during a foot chase with three suspects. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Police officers meet up before heading out for a manhunt on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Police officers search an area for suspects involved in shooting an officer September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. A manhunt for three suspects is underway after an officer from Fox Lake Police was shot and killed this morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Police officers get get a break after coming off a search mission as temperatures exceeded 90 degrees during a manhunt for three suspects in the murder of a Fox Lake Police officer on September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was found with a gunshot wound shortly after the department lost radio communication with him during a foot chase of three suspects. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Police officers search an area for suspects involved in the shooting death of an officer September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. A manhunt for three suspects is underway after an officer from Fox Lake Police was shot and killed this morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: A police sniper keeps watch from the roof of a home while other police search nearby for suspects involved in the shooting of an officer September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. A manhunt for three suspects is underway after an officer from Fox Lake Police was shot and killed this morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Police officers search an area for suspects involved in shooting an officer September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. A manhunt for three suspects is underway after an officer from Fox Lake Police was shot and killed this morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: A police officers looks out across a search area as the manhunt continues for three suspects in the murder of a Fox Lake Police officer on September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was found with a gunshot wound shortly after the department lost radio communication with him during a foot chase of three suspects. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Sisters Brittany (L) and Renee Evans join other residents in showing their support as the manhunt continues for three suspects in the murder of a Fox Lake Police officer on September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was found with a gunshot wound shortly after the department lost radio communication with him during a foot chase of three suspects. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: A police officer searches an area for suspects involved in shooting an officer September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. A manhunt for three suspects is underway after an officer from Fox Lake Police was shot and killed this morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A sniper and a lookout stand on top of a roof searching for two men following the killing of a police officer Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Police officers search for suspects after a police officer was shot on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Ill. (Joe Shuman/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Police officers search an area for suspects involved in shooting an officer September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. A manhunt for three suspects is underway after an officer from Fox Lake Police was shot and killed this morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Police officers search an area for suspects involved in the shooting death of an officer September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. A manhunt for three suspects is underway after an officer from Fox Lake Police was shot and killed this morning. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FOX LAKE, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: A police officer cools down his search dog as temperatures exceeded 90 degrees during a manhunt for three suspects in the murder of a Fox Lake Police officer on September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Illinois. Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was found with a gunshot wound shortly after the department lost radio communication with him during a foot chase of three suspects. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Police officers patrol a swampy area where a manhunt is taking place on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 in Fox Lake, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
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More than 100 people submitted to DNA tests as investigators sought matches to evidence collected at the crime scene - genetic tests that Filenko said ultimately found nothing. Asked Wednesday whether that evidence will now be destroyed, Filenko said he didn't know.

More than 100 investigators stayed on the case for weeks, even as questions arose and investigators began to concede that they could not rule out suicide or an accident. One hint came when Rudd announced that Gliniewicz was killed by a "single devastating" shot to his chest, prompting an angry response from Filenko, who said releasing such details put "the entire case at risk."

But as the case progressed, investigators were uncovering incriminating emails that Gliniewicz had sent, suggesting he felt his thefts were about to be exposed by an audit of the Explorer program.

In a brief statement, Village Administrator Anne Marrin said the officer even threatened her personally after she began asking tough questions.

To the public, the case remained a homicide investigation, even after authorities announced in October that Gliniewicz, 52, had been shot with his own weapon.

Authorities released only the vague description of three suspects that Gliniewicz had radioed in - two white men and a black man. They tracked down three men captured on a home security video system, but all had rock solid alibis, Filenko said, and no one was ever arrested.

Gliniewicz was a 30-year police veteran and expert crime scene investigator, his boss said, and took elaborate steps to try to make it look like he died in a struggle, including shooting himself twice in the torso. The Lake County coroner, Dr. Thomas Rudd, said his head was bruised in ways that may have been intentional. He was struck by two rounds, one that hit his ballistic vest and another that pierced his upper chest.

Gliniewicz was he was held up on national television as a hero who died doing his job in a dangerous environment. An outpouring of grief swept Fox Lake, a village of 10,000 about 50 miles north of Chicago. The officer's picture was hung in storefront windows and flags flew at half-staff in his honor. Others described him as tough when needed, but also as sweet and a role model to youngsters aspiring to go into law enforcement.

Gliniewicz's family had dismissed the suggestion of suicide. The tattooed officer with a shaved head, who was married and had four children, "never once" thought of taking his own life, and was excited about his retirement plans, his son D.J. Gliniewicz said.


See photos from the funeral of Charles Joseph Gliniewicz:

9 PHOTOS
Illinois cop funeral Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz
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Fox Lake Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz committed suicide: Illinois police
Jeff Jacobs of the Illinois State Police and Leroy Pugesek of the Lake County Sheriff's Office hug outside the funeral of slain Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz at Antioch Community High School on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Covered in an American flag, the casket of slain Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz arrives at Antioch Community High School on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. The man in the maroon beret is Lt. Gliniewicz's son. Thousands of police officers and residents are expected to attend his funeral later this morning at the school. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Hundreds of people get in line to pay their respects to slain Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz at Antioch Community High School on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. Thousands of police officers and residents are expected to attend Gliniewicz's visitation and funeral today. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Ron Flug, foreground, ride captain of the Patriot Guards leads the group to Antioch High School for the funeral of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. (Brian Nguyen/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers salute the casket of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz as it is wheeled into Antioch Community High School on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. (Brian Nguyen/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Covered in an American flag, the casket of slain Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz arrives at Antioch Community High School on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. Thousands of police officers and residents are expected to attend his funeral later this morning at the school. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A memorial is in place at the Fox Lake Police Department on Sept. 2, 2015 in Fox Lake, Ill. Police are searching for a second day to locate three suspects in the killing of Fox Lake Lt. Charles Joseph 'G.I. Joe' Gliniewicz. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Tara England of Ingleside and her 11 year-old son pray in front of the memorial for slain Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph 'G.I. Joe' Gliniewicz on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 in Fox Lake, Ill. Three suspects still remain at large and a manhunt is underway in the area. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
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