Editorial: Lake County investigators owe public an apology

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So G.I. Joe was no hero.

If that is what you wanted to believe — that Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was a brave cop killed in the line of duty — we are with you. So did we.

There is no reason for embarrassment, no cause for apology, for wanting to think the best of a person, especially a police officer. Cops do a vital and dangerous job, and it is only right that we should have their back.

But you were duped, for which you deserve an apology.


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The moment Lt. Gliniewicz was found dead on Sept. 1, Lake County investigators downplayed any notion that he might have committed suicide, lashing out at those who did.

Instead, by means of selective pronouncements and a slowly paced investigation — they waited more than two weeks to get lab results on ballistics and gunshot residue — they fed the “hero” story line.

Sen. Dick Durbin, knowing no better, eulogized G.I. Joe on the floor of the Senate. The Bears displayed the officer’s image on a screen at Soldier Field.

When Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd finally revealed that Gliniewicz had been shot with his own gun, leaders of the county’s investigative task force — in a press release, for goodness sake — called Rudd “unprofessional” and “completely irresponsible.” They said he put the “entire case at risk.”

They owe Rudd an apology, too. His only offense was to reveal a basic fact, a full month after Gliniewicz’ death, that raised the honest notion of suicide. Rudd was doing his job, leveling with the public.

The possibility that Gliniewicz’ death was a suicide was quietly speculated from the beginning, of course, and could have been addressed more forthrightly by the investigative task force without compromising their work. The evidence was piling up. Instead, the public was left to believe that killers might be on the loose.

So now, after much delay, we move from one tragedy to another. Instead of a good cop cut down by a killer, we seem to have a dirty cop cut down by his own corrupt acts.

Gliniewicz committed the “ultimate betrayal” by stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a police youth group he led, George Filenko, commander of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said at a press conference Wednesday.

When Gliniewicz became aware of a village audit that might uncover his theft, Filenko said, he committed suicide, staging it to look like murder.

Investigators analyzed 6,500 pages of text messages from the officer’s phone, some of which do appear to be damning.

In one message, Gliniewicz wrote to an unnamed person, referring to the village manager leading the audit: “If she gets ahold of the old checking account, im pretty well f***ed.”

As a result of those text messages, investigators now are targeting two other unnamed individuals.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Coroner Rudd stood alongside Commander Filenko — the fellow who previously called the coroner “unprofessional” — and they glossed over their differences. Rudd praised the “hard work by all law enforcement” and Filenko blamed the need to collect bank records and analyze the text messages for the investigation’s seemingly slow pace.

When reporters asked the two men if they should apologize to the public for their earlier public squabbles and perhaps for misleading the public, both shrugged the questions off.

Filenko said he felt “ashamed” only for “the acts of another police officer.”

He’s right about that. Gliniewicz let down every good cop.

But, honestly, we’re having a tough time finding a hero in any of this.

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