What should be a coordinated investigation into the death of a veteran police officer in suburban Fox Lake, has devolved into a bitter dispute over who is authorized to release information in a case where leads appear to be few and far between.
At issue, Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd’s comments to NBC5 and other media, regarding the wounds suffered by Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, who was shot in a remote field in western Lake County September 1. On Thursday, Rudd told NBC5 that reports in some media that Gliniewicz was shot in the head or neck, were false. And while he continued to decline comment on how many times the officer had been hit, he did say that the fatal wound was a “single devastating shot to the torso.”
Those revelations came on the heels of Rudd’s comments to NBC5 on Wednesday, that he did not have enough information to certify a manner of death in the Gliniewicz investigation.
“I can’t rule out a suicide, I can’t rule out an accident, and I can’t rule in a homicide,” he said. “I can’t issue a manner of death, until law enforcement gives me everything they have.”
Asked if Gliniewicz had been shot at close range or from a distance, the coroner said the autopsy results did not support one answer over the other.
“I can’t tell if he was shot close, or far. I have a suspicion, but I need proof.”
The task force investigating the Lieutenant’s death has balked at releasing even general details about the case. And late Thursday, they issued a blistering statement, blasting Rudd for releasing any information about the ongoing investigation.
“We have not been contacted by or had communication with Doctor Rudd,” Task Force Chief George Filenko said in that statement. “Doctor Rudd, releasing information which is sensitive to this investigation, puts the entire case at risk. All of the progress made since this tragic incident is potentially in jeopardy.”
It didn’t stop there. Raymond Rose, the Lake County undersheriff, called Rudd’s comments about the investigation “outrageous”.
“Doctor Rudd’s actions are completely outside of policy, procedure, protocols, and are completely unprofessional,” he said. “The coroner should not release sensitive case information while an investigation is still underway. It’s completely irresponsible.”
Filenko said at a Thursday evening presser that it wasn't his department's protocol to release information that can jeopardize case.
The information released "could inhibit our investigation down the road," Filenko added.
Gliniewicz was found dead, after radioing dispatch that he was in foot pursuit of three individuals. But he gave only a general description, and nine days after the incident, authorities could point to no major leads in the case.
Ironically, in truth, Rudd deflected most questions about the nature of the officer’s wounds. He declined to answer even the most basic inquiries about how many times the lieutenant had been shot, citing the ongoing investigation. But in the interview with NBC5 on Wednesday, he made clear that if he did not get further information, he might be left no choice but to list Gliniewicz’s manner of death as “undetermined”.
“Based on what is coming from law enforcement, we are pursuing it as a homicide,” he said.“If we are told later that they don’t have evidence of a homicide, then we have to consider the other manners of death, which could be suicide, or accident.”