The Fox Lake police officer who was shot to death Tuesday morning in the line of duty was remembered as a family man and a youth mentor with an unmatched dedication to serving his community.
Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, was a 30-year veteran of the police force and on the cusp of retirement, according to Joe Ahern, CEO of the 100 Club of Chicago, a charity organization for the families of officers killed on duty. The 52-year-old officer planned to retire last month, but the police chief asked him to stay one extra month to help out, Ahern said.
Flags were at half-staff Wednesday morning outside official buildings in Fox Lake and flowers, balloons and mementos were being placed in front of the Fox Lake Police Department. Supporters flocked to the station to honor Gliniewicz.
"I came over here with my favorite teddy bear because he was such a great guy," 11-year-old Lilly Johnson said at the site Wednesday morning.
Gliniewicz, who went by "Joe" and was affectionately called "G.I. Joe" by residents, dedicated his life to serving his community.
But many say the title he took the most pride in was being a family man, married for 30 years to his wife Melodie and a father to four sons. One of his sons served in the Army and was stationed in North Carolina.
One neighbor told NBC Chicago they saw Gliniewicz leave for work at 6 a.m. Tuesday. Just two hours later he was brutally attacked.
"Today, not only did Fox Lake lose a family member, I lost a very dear friend," Village of Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit said Tuesday afternoon.
Just before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Gliniewicz was investigating three suspicious persons near Route 12 and Sayton Road. The investigation turned into a foot pursuit that ended with a fatal shooting, according to Detective Christopher Covelli with the Lake County sheriff's office.
A backup officer arrived on the scene to find Gliniewicz in a marshy area with a gunshot wound, according to Covelli. Gliniewicz died soon after from his injuries.
Many students in the Lake County area also mourned the loss of Gliniewicz, who mentored young people involved in Fox Lake's Explorers Post 300, a nonprofit that trained 14- to 21-year-olds for a career in law enforcement. Gliniewicz taught them what it was like to be an officer, including how to act in SWAT situations and when an officer is attacked. Gliniewicz's wife Melodie was also involved in the Explorers program.
Students at Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, which was put on lockdown, mourned Gliniewicz on social media after they heard about his death. Zach Point, a student who described Gliniewicz as a close family friend, said in a tweet that the officer's death reminded him that life is precious.
This week has taught me that life is truly precious and shouldn't be taken for granted ����
— Zachary Point™ (@zacharypoint43) September 1, 2015
This day has been so unreal and I'm still in denial. You will be missed LT. Justice will be served. pic.twitter.com/vyOt7lR36b
— Zachary Point™ (@zacharypoint43) September 1, 2015
Police officers continue searching for the three suspects, who remain on the loose, but they also mourn the loss of one of their own in the suburb about 60 miles north of Chicago.
"Today the Fraternal Order of Police lost a fellow member and brother who died heroically serving his community," Illinois FOP President Chris Southwood said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the slain officer's family, friends and fellow police officers. He leaves a legacy of several decades of service to Fox Lake for which we are humbly grateful."
Illinois Rep. Bob Dold, whose district includes most of Lake County, released a statement mourning Gliniewicz's loss.
"Today is a heartbreaking reminder of the sacrifices made every day by those who have dedicated their lives to protect us," Dold said in the statement. "My thoughts and prayers are with Lieutenant Gliniewicz's family, friends, fellow officers and the entire Fox Lake community. As the search for the suspects continues, I strongly encourage all members of our community to stay alert and remain vigilant."
Gov. Bruce Rauner's office also released a statement expressing his condolences.
"Governor Rauner extends his deepest condolences to the family of Officer Gliniewicz," the statement reads. "The governor has been briefed on the matter and continues to receive regular updates."
Several community members and groups mourned Gliniewicz Tuesday in social media posts as well:
The Northeast Illinois Council of the Boy Scouts of America said on Facebook, "Lt. Joe Gliniewicz (aka G.I. Joe) was more than a police officer. He was a husband and father to four sons. He was also active with Scouting with Explorer Post 300 in Fox Lake, working with youth interested in policing careers. He was a graduate of Antioch Community High School in 1981, and one of his friends described him as one of the most 'tactically sound' officers he knew. God bless you, Officer Gliniewicz, and may you rest in peace. All of our prayers are with your family and your coworkers. You will be missed by many. You touched so many lives, both in and out of Scouting. Your legacy will go on."
Tyler James, of Kenosha, posted on Facebook, "The officer killed in the line of duty this morning was the advisor for the Fox Lake Explorer Post. He was a great man and will be greatly missed. I have had several explorers come from his post into mine. He was a role model and hero. He will be greatly missed. #neverforgotten"
Joe Bruno, of Lake Mary, Florida, said on Facebook, "You'll be deeply missed by many! I was so fortunate to have known you for 30 years and enjoyed talking and laughing with you! You were such a great influence for my son when he was in your Explorer Post! Fox Lake has lost a great leader and won't be forgotten. He served the Community and his Country! Keeping his family in my thoughts and prayers! RIP LT!"