Law enforcement officers from around the country are expected to attend the funeral for a longtime Illinois police officer who was fatally shot last week, as the search continues for his killer.
A funeral for Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz will be held Monday in Antioch, Gliniewicz’s nearby hometown.
During the visitation Monday morning, Gliniewicz’s wife, Mel, received hugs from a line of officers and other mourners beside a stage displaying a dress uniform and a folded American flag.
The 52-year-old officer was shot Tuesday while chasing three suspicious men on foot in Fox Lake, northwest of Chicago.
Gliniewicz reported the chase to dispatchers before communication was lost. Backup officers arriving minutes later found him shot.
FBI technicians are piecing together surveillance videos to help in the search.
Under a perfect powder-blue sky, police officers from across the country came Monday to give a final salute to a fallen comrade killed in the small boating community of Fox Lake.
Swarms of law enforcement in starched blue uniforms and badges wrapped in black mourning bands converged on Antioch Community High School for the visitation and funeral service for Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.
“He’s one of our fellow brothers,” said officer Nate Troyer, who traveled from Tremont, near Peoria, to help out with traffic.
Thousands of mourners, including police from as far away as New York and California, packed the school to overflowing. Flags flew at half-staff. Sidewalks were dotted with more flags and blue ribbon-tied trees.
His funeral service began shortly after 1:30 p.m. after thousands paid their respects at the visitation. Former Fox Lake police Chief Michael Behan read “The Policeman’s Prayer” and told Gliniewicz’s wife and four sons they were not only loved by their community but also are now part of “the nation’s family.” Others eulogized Gliniewicz as a stand-up man, one who rose early, labored hard and loved his work, community and, most of all, his family.
His brother, Michael Gliniewicz, described him as “reasonable, fair and just.”
“When we were growing up, we all knew he was a hero,” he told the packed auditorium. “But now the nation knows he is a hero. We are Gliniewicz strong. I love you, brother. You will always be a part of my life.”
After the funeral concludes, a hearse carrying his casket will leave for an 18-mile procession through Antioch and Fox Lake and back to Antioch for burial at Hillside East Cemetery.
Maria Mikula Helm, who said she knew Gliniewicz back in high school but had long ago lost touch, came to honor a man whose broad smile remained etched in her memory.
“I’m proud,” said Helm, of Bannockburn. “It’s clear his heart was really in his job and he believed in paying it forward with the kids.”
Joan and Ken Church, of Antioch, sat outside the school holding blue signs that read, “Thank you to all who serve.”
“Police have gotten a bad rap across the country,” Ken Church said, “but he gave so much, and so many give so much.”
Aurora police Lt. Bill Hull also lamented the anti-police sentiment that he says has grown this past year around the country in light of highly publicized use-of-force fatalities. Despite the melancholy occasion, the camaraderie they shared Monday was evident.
“It’s something officers deal with 24/7,” said Hull, who in 28 years of attending funerals for fallen officers said he had “never seen this type of turnout.”
Before the 9 a.m. viewing began, the flag-draped casket of the U.S. Army veteran, attended by honor guards, made its way into the high school. A slide show of photographs of Gliniewicz, at work and play, projected on large screens throughout the building, which was filled with blue and black bunting and flowers.
Known to many as “G.I. Joe,” the trim, muscular Gliniewicz was well known and liked in the community of more than 10,000 that is nestled among three large lakes about 50 miles north of Chicago.
As she waited in the long line outside the school that slowly inched its way into the auditorium where Gliniewicz’s body, clad in his dress uniform, was on view in an open casket, Brenda Belcher of Antioch recalled how much her three sons looked up to him when he served as their Boy Scout leader.
“He really was G.I. Joe,” she said, recalling his fondness for mud and obstacle runs and his large camouflage pickup truck her sons loved. “He was like a kid’s fantasy. They all looked up to him.”
Gliniewicz, 52, had been on patrol about 8 a.m. last Tuesday when he radioed that he was responding to suspicious activity, according to the Lake County sheriff’s office. He reported that he was starting a foot pursuit of three subjects, but no one heard from him after that, authorities said.
His colleagues responded and found him shot in a marshy area near U.S. Highway 12, a main road through town.
Gliniewicz died at the scene, and police said his gun was recovered nearby. Police continued their investigation through the long Labor Day weekend analyzing evidence from the crime scene, including Gliniewicz’s gun, and videos provided by area residents and businesses, while appealing to the public for tips.
Gliniewicz, who became a Fox Lake police officer in 1985, had a military bearing and a devotion to police work so deep that he had tattoos of his badges. His assignments included canine officer, field training officer and a member of the SWAT team. He was promoted to sergeant and, in his final role, a lieutenant. He died within weeks of retirement.
His three decades in law enforcement included leading the Explorers program, which gives youths aspiring to careers in law enforcement an up-close experience.
Two of Sylvia Guajardo’s sons took part in a nine-day program he led this summer.
“I’m glad they were part of it,” the Joliet woman said as she wiped away tears. “They will never forget what they experienced those nine days.”
Joan Triggs’ voice cracked talking about her son Jimmy, 17, who was part of the program, and Gliniewicz, or “LT.”
“LT called, Jimmy jumped,” said Triggs, of McHenry. “He helped make Jimmy who he is today.”
She said she thinks Gliniewicz made an impression on kids because he was tough but fair and “earned their respect.”
Earlier, as she waited for the funeral to begin, Claudia Tinajero of Antioch sat alongside several other mourners near Main Street early Monday.
“We like to believe we live in a good community, and we do. But this just hits very close to home,” Tinajero said. “To know that someone went to work, risked their life and didn’t survive, it’s heartbreaking.”
As school buses full of mourners continued streaming down the street toward the school and residents offered each other bottled water to help with the heat, Tinajero said she felt the outpouring was not only a show of support to Gliniewicz’s family and friends but also to neighbors and fellow community members.
“It’s a very small town, but we’re very united,” Tinajero said. “It affects everyone. We’re all here for each other. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the healing process.”
Born Aug. 25, 1963, in Libertyville, Gliniewicz graduated from Antioch Community High School. He and his wife, Mel, married 26 years ago, have four sons: Joseph, Donald “D.J.”, Jeffrey and David.
Dawn Rhodes is a Chicago Tribune reporter. Lauren Zumbach is a News-Sun reporter. Freelancer Amanda Marrazzo contributed.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune