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Tears, laughter at candlelight vigil for slain Fox Lake officer

Mel Gliniewicz (right), the widow of the slain Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, hugs a supporter at a vigil for him on Wednesday night. | Ruth Fuller/For the Sun-Times

A poignant ceremony filled with tears and sprinkled with laughter was held Wednesday night to honor the man the Fox Lake community affectionately dubbed “G.I. Joe.”

Thousands of people attended the candlelight vigil for slain Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a 32-year veteran of the force, including his widow and four sons. Mel Gliniewicz called her husband of 26 1/2 years her best friend, her soulmate and the best father her sons could ever have.

“He was my rock as much as I was his rock,” she said, fighting back tears. “My world got a little bit smaller with his passing.”

A few laughs came when Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit recalled some of his good times with his friend of 30 years.

“I’m going to miss going to events and asking Joe if I can borrow his gun and his response was always the same — negative,” Schmit said.

Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewitz was shot and killed Tuesday. | Fox Lake Police Department photo

The crowd was filled with friends, community members, police officers and firefighters from throughout the state. Gliniewicz’s beloved youth group, the Fox Lake Law Enforcement Explorer Post 300, was in attendance and in uniform and received a hearty round of applause.

“I spent the day before with Joe, he was getting ready to retire . . . his main focus was his explorers,” Schmit said. “He wanted to make sure the explorers would be OK.”

Mike Johnson, who gave the closing prayer, urged someone to take over where Gliniewicz left off.

“Joe died serving our community,” Johnson said. “I don’t think the question should be why Joe, but who will follow Joe’s legacy?”

Earlier in the day, law enforcement officials said they were collecting and reviewing video from around the area where Gliniewicz, 52, was slain and are sifting through hundreds of tips.

“The community has been fantastic,” Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko said at the news conference about the search for three suspects.

Police ended a massive search with hundreds of officers and six aircraft of a 2-mile-square area about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and are now responding to specific reports over a wider area from citizens and re-examining the crime scene.

“I’m not going to put a time limit on this. We’ve got a murdered colleague,” Filenko said. “We’re not gonna stop.”

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Filenko said that while they have been diligently recovering and reviewing surveillance video from area businesses and residences, he said they have not yet found anything that would lead them to the suspects.

Described by Gliniewicz to a dispatcher only as two white males and one black male, Filenko said they are working on forensic evidence for more clues to the suspects’ identities.

“The evidence techs did process the crime scene,” Filenko said, adding the state crime lab has been asked to expedite its analysis of the evidence. “We probably won’t have the results for a day or two.”

Filenko said authorities presume the suspects are on foot.

Earlier in the day, a close friend of the slain officer said Gliniewicz, started his days “vertical and caffeinated.”

Gliniewicz would head off first thing to the “snap cave,” which is what he called the Snap Fitness gym, where he worked out. Then he would post a weather report on Facebook for all of his followers to plan their day.

Retired firefighter Dave Torkilsen worked with Joe Gliniewicz´s brother, Mike, and grew up with the brothers. | Provided

Dave Torkilsen, a retired captain of the Antioch Fire Department, where Gliniewicz’s brother Mike is a firefighter, was one of those followers and one of Gliniewicz’s best friends. Torkilsen grew up in Antioch with Mike and Joe Gliniewicz and has known the brothers for years.

“He was always positive and very upbeat,” Torkilsen said. “I don´t think I ever saw him without a smile on his face.”

Before the shooting, Gliniewicz had radioed to his department’s dispatcher that he was pursuing three suspects near an old concrete plant in town. His service weapon was taken.

Torkilsen said Gliniewicz was in fantastic shape for a 52-year-old man and frequently participated in extreme obstacle races, such as the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder Mud Run.

“I think he could have overcome those three guys,” Torkilsen said. “Somebody had to get him to the ground.”

As a high-ranking official, Gliniewicz often handled administrative work, so Torkilsen said he was surprised that he was out on the road yesterday. But Torkilsen said he is not at all surprised that he would take on extra duties if needed.

“He was going to retire last month,” Torkilsen said. “The papers were on his desk. They asked him to stay on because he was just so valuable.”

One of Gliniewicz´s greatest values to the department was his work with the Explorer Post 300, Torkilsen said.

¨He took those kids to a lot of competitions and they won a lot of them, ¨ he said.

A makeshift memorial has sprung up in front of the Fox Lake Police Department. And a vigil for slain officer Joe Gliniewicz is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the department. | Ruth Fuller/For the Sun-Times

Waukegan Police Officer Daniel Byrd traveled to the Fox Lake Police Department Wednesday and served in the Army with Gliniewicz. He came with his infant son, his sister and her two daughters, to pay tribute to the fallen officer.

“He was a great guy and a great leader,” Byrd said. “I’m heartbroken.”

As a police officer, Byrd said he knows he and his fellow officers face danger every day but that doesn’t diminish the shock he felt when he heard about his friend’s death.

“You know this can happen but you never think this will happen to someone you know,” he said.

Waukegan Police Officer Daniel Byrd came to Fox Lake to pay tribute to Gliniewicz. Byrd served with Gliniewicz in the 814th Military Police Company in Arlington Heights from 1996-1998. | Ruth Fuller/For the Sun-Times

Law-enforcement officers from several agencies have been taking part in the search for three suspects in the shooting death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz. | Michael Schmidt/Associated Press