Authorities in Fox Lake have locked the door of the former Police Explorer post, in the basement of a community center on the city’s west side. That basement is packed to the rafters with military equipment, which investigators say the Explorers, and their controversial leader, Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, never should have had.
A week after declaring that the lieutenant’s death was a “carefully staged suicide,” investigators took NBC5 Investigates into Gliniewicz’s former Explorer headquarters, revealing the mountains of military gear which even now is the subject of an intensive internal review. Acquired through an agency known as the Law Enforcement Support Office, those items are supposed to be requisitioned for use in bona fide police departments -- not Explorer Posts.
But in the Gliniewicz post, there they were: Kevlar helmets, radios, ballistic vests, combat boots, gas masks and gun belts by the hundreds. And investigators believe it was the increasing pressure to account for those items, which caused Gliniewicz to take his own life.
“I think he felt he was going to be found out,” said Village Administrator Anne Marrin, who had confronted Gliniewicz the day before he was found dead in a field in western Lake County.
“I said I want a full inventory,” she said. “I want your invoices, your procurement, where your authorization came from.”
Authorities say they suspect it would have been impossible for Gliniewicz to provide such documentation, because he had been obtaining the gear through fraud.
“Documents were forged,” said acting police chief Michael Keller. “The chief’s signature was forged on documents to obtain this equipment.”
Under the LESO program, surplus military equipment is supposed to be made available to local police departments. But Keller says in Fox Lake, it never found its way to the police department, because Gliniewicz ordered it himself.
“When a department obtains the equipment, it’s not meant for Explorer posts,” he said. “The police department doesn’t even have this equipment. Many police departments don’t have this equipment.”
The former Explorer clubhouse is literally packed with military gear. Holsters by the dozens, ballistic helmets, combat fatigues, army cots. And, a find which Keller found especially disturbing, manuals on SWAT tactics and sniper training.
“Essentially the kids were being trained to kill on command,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s the intention of the Explorers, or what the Boy Scouts intended them to be.”
Also Thursday, investigators in Fox Lake released first responder reports, which described the frenetic scene which greeted the police officers who discovered Gliniewicz’s lifeless body.
One report describes how an officer “rolled his body over….observed blood coming from Lt. Gliniewicz nose and blood on his neck just above his collar.”
That same officer noted that “Gliniewicz’s hand was “empty, in a position that would lead to believe he was possibly holding a gun.” But the report notes that the officer’s “duty weapon was not in his holster.” And it goes on to describe how helicopters were summoned and numerous agencies were placed on alert, as well as warnings to area schools.
A police source says investigators were told by the pathologist and crime lab, that it’s a natural phenomenon for hands to tense and curl post-mortem. And that evidence technicians at the scene were told by coroner’s office staff that the hand positioning did not conclude or support anything as to the manner of death.
“Investigators suspected homicide early,” the source said. “Not suicide.”