After more than 30 years as a Fox Lake police officer and just weeks from retirement, Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz's life was soundly linked to law enforcement and his family.
"He was an amazing police officer. His whole life was dedicated to the police department," said Karla Zander, who has known Gliniewicz for about seven years.
Vigils for Lt. Charles Joseph GliniewiczVigils will be held in honor of slain Fox Lake police officer Charles Joseph Gliniewicz at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Fox Lake's Lakefront Park and at 8 p.m. at the police station.
She described him as always very happy, saying people joked about him being heavily caffeinated because he was always full of energy. He put his heart and soul into the department, she said.
"It's hard to believe," Zander said of news that Gliniewicz, 52, a married father of four children, was shot and killed Tuesday morning. Three men are sought in connection with the fatal shooting.
Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit said Gliniewicz had planned to retire at the end of the year but pushed it up to the end of September. The pair met Monday for 90 minutes to discuss Gliniewicz's retirement. Schmit said Gliniewicz wanted to make sure the police department's Explorer Post 300 would continue after he left the job. The Explorer Post was something the officer had built for 30 years, and he didn't want to see it end, Schmit said.
"He was a true friend and a champion of our community," he said. "I am frustrated, yes. I don't blame the police. I'm frustrated the people who perpetrated this senseless crime have not been caught."
Roselle police Sgt. John Lawson, who started his law enforcement career in the Fox Lake department about three months ahead of Gliniewicz, said the two had remained in contact throughout the past three decades.
"I just talked to him Friday night," said Lawson, who's also the Schaumburg Township assessor. "We were talking about retirement plans and stuff like that."
Along with two other Roselle officers, Lawson two weeks ago attended the Police Explorers' state conference run by Gliniewicz, who was an adviser to Fox Lake Explorer Post 300.
Lawson said Gliniewicz and his wife, Mel, made Fox Lake's Police Explorers unit nationally known, and his old friend helped Roselle set up its post in 2010.
Lawson learned of Tuesday's shooting in Fox Lake through the media before knowing Gliniewicz was the victim. But as more detailed reports came in, he said he began having a bad feeling that was ultimately confirmed.
Alex Aguilar, who was a member of the Fox Lake Police Explorers group for a short time in about 2010, said she remembered Gliniewicz seemed "like a really nice guy."
Aguilar recalled him driving a big, black "G.I. Joe-looking truck," and people would refer to him that way because of the way he presented himself, she said.
Gliniewicz led the explorer team at the 2013 Polar Plunge fundraiser for Special Olympics of Illinois at Fox Lake's Lakefront Park. The event brought in more than $61,000.
Mario Martinez, owner of Dockers restaurant in Fox Lake, knew Gliniewicz for years and donated meals to the annual Explorer summer boot camp.
"I can't believe this happened in Fox Lake," Martinez said. "He's one of the best cops I've ever known."
"He would come and help us with anything, unconditionally. We were always willing to help him with the Explorers. It's been a pleasure working together with him all of these years," Martinez said.
Devon Arbay, a captain at the Fox Lake Explorer post, said he was in awe of "G.I. Joe."
"It's going to be real hard after something like this. We're all taking it hard now," Arbay said. "But we'll pull it together and continue to do our work, and fulfill what (Gliniewicz) wanted us to do."
In 2010, Gliniewicz was among the commanders training officers in the police station's unfinished basement. Using cardboard cutouts, he trained officers to be better prepared for entering homes where armed offenders might be lurking.
"It's a matter of muscle training and muscle memory," Gliniewicz said at the time. "By getting them to do this over and over, they build their muscles to react when they need to."
Tributes, support and expressions of sympathy poured in Tuesday.
"Today is a heartbreaking reminder of the sacrifices made every day by those who have dedicated their lives to protect us," U.S. Rep. Robert Dold said.
Lake County Undersheriff Raymond Rose bristled at the violence against police officers.
"This has got to stop," he said.
Chicago Blackhawks television analyst Eddie Olczyk and the Chicago Police Department were among those who expressed sympathy on Twitter.
The Lake County Municipal League was to have held its annual golf outing Wednesday at Fox Lake Country Club, but postponed it until Oct. 1 "due to the Fox Lake Police Department's ongoing work and out of respect and honor for the life of the fallen police officer," members were told.
Vigils are being planned Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Fox Lake's Lakefront Park and at 8 p.m. at the police station.
• Daily Herald staff writers Eric Peterson and Bob Susnjara contributed to this report