A federal lawsuit was filed Friday by a man claiming he was targeted as a suspect in the death of Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, the now-disgraced Fox Lake, Illinois, officer whose "carefully staged suicide" was believed to be an attempt to cover up years of criminal activity.
Vernon Randolph is suing Gliniewicz's estate, the village of Fox Lake, Mayor Donny Schmit and former police Chief Michael Behan, alleging he was harassed by Gliniewicz and targeted as a suspect in the officer’s death because of his race.
Gliniewicz was last heard from the morning of Sept. 1 when he called for backup while on duty, reporting on his radio he was pursuing three suspicious men in a remote area of the village just south of the Wisconsin state line.
He described the suspects as two white men and a black man.
Just 17 minutes later, the responding backup officers found him dead, shot twice with his own gun.
The incident prompted a massive manhunt and a months-long investigation that ultimately determined Gliniewicz's death was a "carefully staged suicide" and the "end result of extensive criminal acts."
Randolph, who is African American, said he would walk his daughter to the bus stop each day for school, and two other white men took their children to the same stop. Randolph noted that Gliniewicz was "frequently in the vicinity of the bus stop."
Randolph said after Gliniewicz’s death, he was targeted as a suspect "in this fictitious crime."
During the investigation, Randolph was surrounded by ATF agents, who pointed guns at him and his child, according to the suit, which says he was searched and interrogated.
Randolph alleges the village, mayor and police chief were aware of a "pattern and practice of Gliniewicz’s misconduct and violation of policies involving police misconduct," which they allowed to continue for years.
Randolph claims in the suit that in October in 2014, Gliniewicz stopped him and searched his vehicle and backpack. He said Gliniewicz asked him "where the drugs were" and Randolph said he had none.
After that, Gliniewicz asked Randolph for the name of someone who might have drugs and threatened to "make something happen to him" if Randolph did not "make something happen for him," the lawsuit states.
Two weeks later, Gliniewicz again stopped Randolph at a gas station near his home asking if Randolph had "gotten him any information yet," and Randolph denied knowing anyone with drugs, according to the suit.
The lawsuit claims that over the next few months, Gliniewicz harassed and intimidated Randolph by pulling him over and making hand gestures indicating he was watching him.
The suit seeks an unknown amount of compensatory and punitive damages.
The village said in a statement it is reviewing the lawsuit, gathering information about the complaint and "will defend itself against these claims."
""It is always the Village’s expectation that Fox Lake Police officers treat everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect," the statement read. "If any citizen feels their treatment by Fox Lake police officers in any way falls short of these expectations, we encourage them to file a complaint immediately so proper action can be taken."