By Dawn Rhodes, Lauren Zumbach and Amanda Marrazzo, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
CHICAGO — Under a perfect powder-blue sky, police officers from across the country came Monday to give a final salute to a fallen comrade killed in the small boating community of Fox Lake.
Swarms of law enforcement in starched blue uniforms and badges wrapped in black mourning bands converged on Antioch Community High School for the visitation and funeral service for Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.
“He’s one of our fellow brothers,” said officer Nate Troyer, who traveled from Tremont, near Peoria, to help out with traffic.
Thousands of mourners, including police from as far away as New York and California, packed the school to overflowing. Flags flew at half-staff. Sidewalks were dotted with more flags and blue ribbon-tied trees.
His funeral service began shortly after 1:30 p.m. after thousands paid their respects at the visitation. Former Fox Lake police Chief Michael Behan read “The Policeman’s Prayer” and told Gliniewicz’s wife and four sons they were not only loved by their community but also are now part of “the nation’s family.” Others eulogized Gliniewicz as a stand-up man, one who rose early, labored hard and loved his work, community and, most of all, his family.
His brother, Michael Gliniewicz, described him as “reasonable, fair and just.”
“When we were growing up, we all knew he was a hero,” he told the packed auditorium. “But now the nation knows he is a hero. We are Gliniewicz strong. I love you, brother. You will always be a part of my life.”
After the funeral concludes, a hearse carrying his casket will leave for an 18-mile procession through Antioch and Fox Lake and back to Antioch for burial at Hillside East Cemetery.
Maria Mikula Helm, who said she knew Gliniewicz back in high school but had long ago lost touch, came to honor a man whose broad smile remained etched in her memory.
“I’m proud,” said Helm, of Bannockburn. “It’s clear his heart was really in his job and he believed in paying it forward with the kids.”
Joan and Ken Church, of Antioch, sat outside the school holding blue signs that read “Thank you to all who serve.”
“Police have gotten a bad rap across the country,” Ken Church said, “but he gave so much, and so many give so much.”
Aurora police Lt. Bill Hull also lamented the anti-police sentiment that he says has grown this past year around the country in light of highly publicized use-of-force fatalities. Despite the melancholy occasion, the camaraderie they shared Monday was evident.
“It’s something officers deal with 24/7,” said Hull, who in 28 years of attending funerals for fallen officers said he had “never seen this type of turnout.”
Before the 9 a.m. viewing began, the flag-draped casket of the U.S. Army veteran, attended by honor guards, made its way into the high school. A slide show of photographs of Gliniewicz, at work and play, projected on large screens throughout the building, which was filled with blue and black bunting and flowers.
Known to many as “G.I. Joe,” the trim, muscular Gliniewicz was well known and liked in the community of more than 10,000 that is nestled among three large lakes about 50 miles north of Chicago.
As she waited in the long line outside the school that slowly inched its way into the auditorium where Gliniewicz’s body, clad in his dress uniform, was on view in an open casket, Brenda Belcher of Antioch recalled how much her three sons looked up to him when he served as their Boy Scout leader.
“He really was G.I. Joe,” she said, recalling his fondness for mud and obstacle runs and his large camouflage pickup truck her sons loved. “He was like a kid’s fantasy. They all looked up to him.”
Gliniewicz, 52, had been on patrol about 8 a.m. last Tuesday when he radioed that he was responding to suspicious activity, according to the Lake County sheriff’s office. He reported that he was starting a foot pursuit of three subjects, but no one heard from him after that, authorities said.
His colleagues responded and found him shot in a marshy area near U.S. Highway 12, a main road through town.
Gliniewicz died at the scene, and police said his gun was recovered nearby. Police continued their investigation through the long Labor Day weekend analyzing evidence from the crime scene, including Gliniewicz’s gun, and videos provided by area residents and businesses, while appealing to the public for tips.
Gliniewicz, who became a Fox Lake police officer in 1985, had a military bearing and a devotion to police work so deep that he had tattoos of his badges. His assignments included canine officer, field training officer and a member of the SWAT team. He was promoted to sergeant and, in his final role, a lieutenant. He died within weeks of retirement.
(Dawn Rhodes is a Chicago Tribune reporter. Lauren Zumbach is a News-Sun reporter. Amanda Marrazzo is a freelance reporter.)
(c)2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Jeff Jacobs of the Illinois State Police and Leroy Pugesek of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office hug outside the funeral of slain Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz at Antioch Community High School on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 in Antioch, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS)