Police officer Charles Joseph Gliniewicz received a hero’s funeral.
Whether he will be remembered as one, however, is suddenly shrouded in doubt.
Gliniewicz was found dead on the morning of Sept. 1 in a remote area of Fox Lake, Ill. Moments earlier, the veteran cop had radioed that he was pursuing two white males and a black male on foot. When his fellow officers arrived, they found Gliniewicz bleeding to death with his .40-caliber pistol nearby.
State, federal and local authorities scoured the area for signs of the three suspected cop-killers. Fox Lake, a northern suburb of Chicago, closed its schools as SWAT teams went house to house. Hundreds of residents lined the streets for Gliniewicz’s funeral, which was a sea of blue police uniforms.
“When we were growing up, we all knew Joe was a hero,” said his brother, firefighter Michael Gliniewicz, choking back tears at the ceremony. “But now the nation knows he was a hero.”
On Wednesday morning, however, officials are expected to shatter that image of Gliniewicz as a heroic officer cut down in the line of duty. Instead, they will announce that the veteran cop killed himself in an elaborately staged suicide, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times reported, quoting police sources.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has called a Wednesday news conference to announce “conclusive results” of the investigation, according to the Associated Press.
At the press conference, authorities will announce that Gliniewicz actually took his own life, multiple law enforcement sources told the newspapers.
The revelation could alter public perception of not only Gliniewicz but also the argument that cops are increasingly under attack in America.
The death of the Fox Lake cop, a 52-year-old father of four sons who for many years ran his department’s cadet training program, became a touchstone for law enforcement officials across the country who believe they are under increased threat amidst growing scrutiny of police in the wake of a string of high-profile police-involved killings.
Police badges have become “a target,” Wicomico County, Maryland Sheriff Mike Lewis told Fox News during a discussion of Gliniewicz’s death. “I’ve never seen it like this,” he added. “It’s a scary, scary time for law enforcement in this country.”
“Every cop in America is looking over their shoulder right now,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn on “Fox and Friends.”
Many Americans were also angry over the apparent cop-killing, particularly in Fox Lake.
“I hope they find them and blow their heads off,” Jeff Peterson, a local construction worker, told The Washington Post. “It’s time for [officers] to fight back.”
According to recently released FBI data, however, assaults on police officers dropped sharply in 2014 and are at their lowest point since 1996.
In a case similar to Gliniewicz’s disputed death, an Arkansas police officer was arrested Tuesday for allegedly lying about being shot during a traffic stop.
Sgt. David Houser, 50, of the England Police Department was charged with filing a false police report, according to KTHV-TV. Houser had claimed that he was shot in his bulletproof vest during an Oct. 24 traffic stop.
“Houser told local and state law enforcement officers that while on patrol that he had exchanged gunfire with a suspect who fled from him driving a sport utility vehicle south of England along state Highway 15,” Arkansas State Police said in a press release obtained by the local TV station. “Houser also reported he had been shot by the suspect.”
As in Fox Lake, Houser’s claim sparked a massive manhunt as officials searched the state for a Hispanic man in a silver SUV.
“We went after it as if we were going after someone who had just tried to kill a police officer,” England Police Chief Nathan Cook told KTHV-TV. “The more we investigated, the more it became clear that the details of his story were inconsistent.”
Cook, who said he fired Houser on Monday, was at a loss why his officer had invented the incident.
“He was a good officer,” the police chief said. “I’m not a doctor, so I can’t speculate why this happened. I know he’s had some personal losses lately. We just hope he gets the help he needs.”
“Why would you ever make that up?” added Lonoke Sheriff John Staley. “What would he gain from that? It’s just amazing to me.”