More Gliniewicz fallout: Fox Lake men claim civil rights violations

Two Fox Lake men who claim authorities improperly detained, searched and questioned them as part of the investigation last September into the fictional murder of a disgraced Fox Lake police officer filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday.

The lawsuit names as defendants the villages of Fox Lake and Libertyville, former Fox Lake police chief Michael Behan, and 17 officers including a Libertyville detective. It alleges false arrest, and unlawful search and seizure.

Preston Shrewsbury and Manuel Vargas say police targeted them in the days after Gliniewicz's Sept. 1 death, which police originally classified as a murder. Two months later, authorities determined the 52-year-old veteran officer died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They say he staged his death because he feared his embezzlement of funds from a youth program would become public.

The village of Fox Lake issued a statement indicating it had not been formally served with the lawsuit and had not reviewed the complaint. The village declined to comment until “it gains a better understanding of the lawsuit and its specific allegations.”

Gliniewicz took his life after filing a false report that he was pursuing three suspicious men: two white males and one black male. That report, combined with the discovery of his body, sparked a massive manhunt involving more than 100 officers that shuttered local businesses, placed schools on lockdown and terrorized residents who feared killers were on the loose.

Shrewsbury and Vargas claim they were taken into custody and questioned several times between Sept. 1 and 4. On Sept. 2, while a helicopter hovered above their house, they claim, SWAT teams entered without a warrant, detained them, searched the residence and ordered them to provide their DNA. They suffered “emotional anxiety, fear, pain and suffering,” the complaint alleges.

“These two individuals had their constitutional rights violated,” attorney Gregory E. Kulis said. “These two were grabbed not once, not twice, but for four days. They were searched, the police seized their house, all in violation of their constitutional rights.”

The complaint alleges former chief Behan “knew of the potential charges” against Gliniewicz, knew “there was a strong possibility that his death was self-inflicted suicide” and knew neither Shrewsbury nor Vargas had anything to do with it.

Nevertheless, police pursued a theory that lacked any factual evidence, according to the complaint that described Behan's actions as “intentional, willful and wanton.”

“The Fox Lake Police Department sent everyone on a wild chase with no facts,” Kulis said in a prepared statement.

Another Fox Lake man filed a civil rights lawsuit in November that claimed authorities framed him as a suspect after Gliniewicz's fabricated a report. Vernon Randolph III, who is black, claims that before his death, Gliniewicz harassed Randolph for several months on false drug possession claims.

• Daily Herald staff writer Lee Filas contributed to this report.

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