How should we react to Fox Lake officer's suicide?

  • We'll never really know what Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was feeling that led him to take his own life, experts say.

      We'll never really know what Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was feeling that led him to take his own life, experts say. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The smiling, outgoing leader of a police program for young people, Fox Lake police Lt. Joseph "G.I. Joe" Gliniewicz stole money from that group and then killed himself Sept. 1 in an elaborate ruse to make it appear as if he was murdered in the line of duty.

    The smiling, outgoing leader of a police program for young people, Fox Lake police Lt. Joseph "G.I. Joe" Gliniewicz stole money from that group and then killed himself Sept. 1 in an elaborate ruse to make it appear as if he was murdered in the line of duty. courtesy OF Fox Lake police department

  • Acknowledging that Fox Lake police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz stole money and then attempted to make his suicide appear to be a murder, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko says those acts made him "feel ashamed" of his fellow officer.

    Acknowledging that Fox Lake police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz stole money and then attempted to make his suicide appear to be a murder, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko says those acts made him "feel ashamed" of his fellow officer. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • More about the mental health of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz before he took own life may be learned in coming days and months, but solid answers may never come, experts say.

      More about the mental health of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz before he took own life may be learned in coming days and months, but solid answers may never come, experts say. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/5/2015 10:41 AM

Wednesday's shocking revelation that beloved Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph "G.I. Joe" Gliniewicz was a common thief who orchestrated his sad suicide to look like the murder of a hero unleashes a torrent of emotions and questions.

The truth is painful. Our reactions are painful. But there is more to this story.

 

Some call Gliniewicz a coward for killing himself. They also call him a phony, a bum, selfish, disgusting and a miserable human. They blame him for fueling racial tensions in those people who jumped to a conclusion that the cop's death on Sept. 1 had something to do with #BlackLivesMatter. They have no pity for Gliniewicz and note he brought all of this on himself by stealing money from the Fox Lake Explorer Post 300 program he ran to teach kids about law enforcement.

"Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community," says Cmdr. George Filenko of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. Officials point out the embarrassing detail that Gliniewicz spent some of the money he stole on pornographic websites.

People are angry that Gliniewicz kicked off an expensive and frightening manhunt by radioing his headquarters with false information about two white males and one black male, staging a pretend crime scene and misleading police into thinking he had been murdered by suspects still on the loose.

Some wonder how he could do this to his family, friends and community. They ask why those close to him didn't see this coming. They wonder how a suicidal police officer could be allowed to still be patrolling the neighborhood.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Questions always follow suicides, which never make sense to those of us applying reasoning to another person's suicidal logic. A conviction would have led to public ridicule, and Gliniewicz noted in his text messages that money had to be returned or a friend would be "visiting me in JAIL!!" But the amounts mentioned are barely enough to buy a decent used car. Couldn't he have come up with a better plan than to sentence himself to death?

"It's complicated," says Anne Gulotta, a Barrington woman who lost her husband to suicide and serves as a board member for the Illinois chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP.org). The founder of suicide-prevention programs in suburban schools and with military groups, Gulotta says talking about suicide and asking questions can help people recognize danger signs and point people toward help.

Gliniewicz paid close attention to detail and fabricated evidence that made it look as if he had been murdered, but that doesn't mean his suicide doesn't share a similarity with all suicides.

"It all has to do with pain and the ability to work through it," says Richard B. Kirchhoff, a McHenry County pediatric dentist and retired Army officer who co-chairs the state AFSP board and serves in leadership positions with the national organization. "It may not be the same issue, but the feelings are the same."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd uses Gliniewicz's death to talk about the danger of untreated depression. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes that 90 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from a mental illness at the time. There is no evidence Gliniewicz was receiving treatment for depression or other health issues, and his death might have "blindsided" everyone else in his life, Kirchhoff says.

"We'll never know the pain he was going through," Kirchhoff says.

Coming to grips with all the details of the Gliniewicz case made public Wednesday will take time. Investigators needed two months, 125,000 man-hours, advanced ballistics testing, autopsy results and extensive research into 6,500 pages of text messages and 32,000 emails before verifying a suspicion that Gliniewicz's death was a suicide. It's hard to wrap up the emotions of his suicide minutes after the news breaks.

It's healthier to ask questions about Gliniewicz's suicide than to draw conclusions right now. We might find out more about the mental health condition of Gliniewicz in the months, weeks, days, minutes and seconds before he shot himself in the chest. Or we might not. But if you crave something black-and-white in the often-gray world of suicide, Cmdr. Filenko gives us this nugget of absolute truth: "There are no winners here."

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.