Illinois community dismayed over officer’s suicide, alleged theft

Published 9:12 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

FOX LAKE, Ill. (AP) — Public works employees were pulling down the blue ribbons residents had tied to trees and poles as a tribute to their slain hero. Signs around the small town that had praised the cop known as “G.I. Joe” suddenly disappeared, replaced in one case by another that labeled him “G.I. Joke.”

The friends and neighbors of police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz reacted with disbelief and dismay to authorities’ announcement Wednesday that the popular Fox Lake, Illinois, officer not only meticulously staged his own suicide to make it look like he died in the line of duty, but had been stealing for years from a police club for youth that he oversaw.

“It’s breaking my heart,” said Mark Weihofen, a 41-year-old school bus mechanic. “There is a ‘We love you, Joe’ sign that I pass by every day. … It was already down.”

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Investigators said they believed the 30-year police veteran — whose death prompted a weekslong manhunt and whose funeral drew thousands of mourners — killed himself because his criminal activity was about to be exposed.

Recovered text messages and other records now show the 52-year-old Gliniewicz embezzled from the village’s Police Explorer program for seven years, spending the money on mortgage payments, travel expenses, gym memberships, adult websites and loans to friends, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said.