In the days after Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz’s death, signs sprang up on shop windows and front lawns around town. They bore a photo of the grinning Gliniewicz and the words “A hero remembered never dies.”
Few of those signs remained on the streets of the small north suburb Wednesday after Lake County authorities announced the veteran officer staged his death as investigators closed in on evidence he had for years embezzled money from a youth program run by the department.
A downtown shop for weeks had given away signs — free of charge — to anyone who asked. On Wednesday, Sign Appeal passed out copies of a statement that said, in part, “We showed support for Lt. Joe at the time, based on the information that was provided to us and our personal interaction with him.”
A nearby tavern replaced its sign with a hand-lettered version that read: “Embarrassment!!! Low-Life Scumbag.”
A hand-lettered sign in a Fox Lake tavern expressed outrage over developments in Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz’s death. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times
Most residents expressed shock at the news that the two-month investigation into Gliniewicz’s death had revealed the Army vet was not killed in a struggle with unknown perpetrators as was first reported by authorities.
“It’s embarrassing,” said longtime resident Robert Hubbard. “The whole town thought there were three killers on the loose. This was a nationwide event on the news. And now we’re getting the attention all over again.”
Thomas Stallone said many in Fox Lake grew suspicious as the investigation dragged on, and rumors began circulating.
“There’s more to the whole story,” Stallone said as he walked from the downtown post office. “Everybody said he was a really good guy, but maybe he just didn’t want to go down with a bad name. Maybe that’s it. Maybe not.”
Mayor Donny Schmit, in a statement issued late Wednesday, expressed shock at the revelations, and said he and Gliniewicz had known each other for years.
“I lost a friend. While this friend may not have been perfect, he was still a friend. In the past 30 years, he has been a part of our village and helped many of our youth,” said Schmit, who still had a commemorative sign posted at the end of his driveway. “So while he had some flaws, he also did a lot of good.”