Lt. Gliniewicz's son: 'I miss my best friend every day'
First of two parts
"Have you gotten ahold of mom?"
D.J. Gliniewicz, the 22-year-old son of slain Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, said that simple text message from his brother the morning of Sept. 1 was how it all began.
Ever since seeing those six words on his cellphone while serving as an Army Specialist at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he has imagined countless scenarios for how three "suspicious" people could have killed his father, a burly retired Army Airborne MP and 30-year cop.
As the investigation slowly unfolds with precious little information, D.J. has been comforted by an outpouring of love and support from a community also in mourning.
He says he has remained "Gliniewicz strong" with his mother, Melodie, and his three brothers, Joe, Jeff and David.
He also has defended his father from critics and those who claim his father took his own life.
I've known D.J. since he was 13 years old, when I covered a story for the Daily Herald about a summertime police Explorer "boot camp" his father held annually. It's when I first noticed how the younger Gliniewicz was the spitting image of his father.
As D.J. and I sat across from each other on a dreary Friday afternoon amid pictures and medals his father had earned, we talked about his dad, how his family is coping with his loss, the rumors surrounding his death and all that happened that horrible day.
"It's not really that I lost a father, or a mentor or a coach. You know, I lost my best friend," he told me at a picnic table at Lakefront Park in Fox Lake -- a place that some are pushing to rename for the elder Gliniewicz. "I miss my best friend every day. He was definitely my number one guy."
What follows is an edited version of our conversation.
Q: What happened?
A: I received a text from my brother. He said, "Has mom gotten ahold of you?" I said, "No, why? What's going on?" He texted me and said apparently there was a shooting today in Fox Lake and dad was involved. And mom just got picked up by the firefighters. So I immediately pulled myself out of the class and two of my buddies, one of which I went to basic training with who is in my platoon now, and another who is a really good friend of mine. I tried calling my mother and my mother didn't answer. So I call again. My uncle picks up. My Uncle Mike, he's a firefighter over in Antioch. And he says, "Hey D.J. what's going on?" And, I said, "I don't know. You tell me what's going on because I have no idea."
So he says, "There's only way I can tell you this and it's the same way your dad would tell you about someone else. So, um, he didn't make it."
Q: What was your reaction?
A: I was ... I was in awe. You know, my father was one of the most technically tactical proficient individuals I have ever met in my lifetime. He's taught me to be who I am today in everything that I do. And I'm one of the people that excels in so much as far as it goes with room clearing and the handling of individuals and everything like that. And I was ... I was in shock. I really didn't know what to think. I thought it was a joke. I was like, man these people are really messing with me right now. This is just some sick, cruel joke. That Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out of a Humvee and be like, "Gotcha!" You know, there was so much going through my head at that time.
Q: Talk about your return to Fox Lake.
A: It really hit when I saw my mom. You know, that's definitely I think when I hit the emotional part of the reality that this isn't a joke, this isn't a dream. This is a real-life situation.
Q: Do you have anything you want to say to the people of Fox Lake?
A: You know, it's not just Fox Lake. It's Antioch and all the other surrounding communities. And especially the law enforcement and firefighters and military. A lot of them have messaged me on Facebook, and you know it's ... there's just so many it's hard to go through and thank everyone all individually. At this time, I want to send a sincere thank you for all the love and support that everyone has shown us. I mean, it's incredible. I think it would be a lot harder to go through if it wasn't for the people being there for us.
Q: How is your mom doing? Your brothers?
A: My mother is doing good. She's starting to get back into the groove of the actual norms of what she used to do on a daily basis. It's just some of the ... media slandering with everything that has recently been going on with all the rumors. You know, it actually angers the whole family seeing some of those. But, um, Joey, he goes back to work today. Jeffrey has been doing amazing. Jeffrey has been hanging out with his friends. David went back to school on Wednesday about a week ago, and he's been doing really good.
Q: So, he was about to retire.
A: He was supposed to retire last month ... I'm not 100 percent sure, he said this was his last month. He stayed because he didn't want to leave the Explorers behind. He wanted to start flowing in some new advisers and wanted to bring in a new sponsor. He felt that if he packed up and left that the program would be left in the dark.
Q: There have been a lot of fundraisers for you guys. How do you feel about them?
A: We have never been people to ask for something. We'd always give and never expect something in return. That's how we were growing up. You give and you give and you give. You never have to expect something in return. But the amount of fundraisers have been amazing. My mom has a job (with an Antioch pest control company) but my father's job was the main support of the household. The fundraisers will help out tremendously with being able to help us sustain our usual living style.
Q: Is this something you and your family worried about?
A: We always had a police scanner in our house. And many many times growing up I'd always be listening to it, listening to it for the longest time. I've always been terrified, my whole family has been terrified, you know, one day, he's not coming home. A chief is going to walk up or a designated official would walk up and say we need to go, your father isn't coming back. I lost faith in that a long time ago. I stopped thinking about it ... It was always a never-ending thought in my head that it was a possibility that he wouldn't come home one day. I just didn't expect it to happen now. Now that I've grown up and knowing who my dad was and always working with my dad (with the Explorers), I just thought "Nah, it'll never happen to dad."
Q: What is your favorite memory of your father?
A: I graduated Airborne School and he actually got to go and, in front of everyone there, he got to go and pin my Airborne wings in front of me. I can honestly say I think it was the first time I actually saw him tear up. It wasn't really a full-fledged crying, but he definitely had some dust leaking out of the corner of his eye or something. But I can say it was definitely the greatest memory I had of my father because he was so proud of what I accomplished in my career.
Q: Do you miss him?
A: Every day. You know, a lot of people ask me and it's not really because I lost a father or a mentor or a coach, but I lost my best friend. He was a guy I was going to talk to about anything and everything. You know if I had a really bad day at work, he would be the first person I called. He was always there for me when I needed it the most. So, yeah, you know, I miss my best friend every day. He was my number one guy.
In Part 2, D.J. talks about the rumors that his father took his own life, his confidence in the task force, and his hope that the people will eventually be caught.