One of three fictitious Gliniewicz 'suspects' files suit
A 26-year-old Fox Lake man who says he was framed for the fictional murder of disgraced Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Friday.
Attorneys for Vernon Randolph III say federal officials targeted their client as a suspect in a fictitious crime fabricated by Gliniewicz the morning of his death. Randolph's attorneys announced the lawsuit, which names the village of Fox Lake, the Gliniewicz estate, Mayor Donny Schmit and former Police Chief Michael Behan, during a news conference Friday at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.
The filing marks the first litigation since Lake County investigators' Nov. 4 announcement that Gliniewicz fabricated his report of three suspicious people and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Officials say the 52-year-old officer killed himself because he feared his embezzlement of funds from the youth Explorer program would become public.
Randolph, who is black, alleges in the complaint that Gliniewicz illegally detained and threatened him and violated his civil rights on multiple occasions beginning in October 2014.
The village of Fox Lake issued a statement saying it will review the lawsuit and defend itself against its claims. The statement reads in part that the village expects "Fox Lake police officers (to) treat everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect. If any citizen feels their treatment by Fox Lake police officers in any way falls short of these expectations, we encourage them to file a complaint immediately so proper action can be taken."
Neither Gliniewicz's wife, Schmit nor Behan returned calls seeking comment.
According to the complaint, Randolph was one of three men -- two of them white -- who waited with their children every day at a school bus stop.
"Gliniewicz was frequently in the vicinity of the bus stop and aware of the plaintiff, and the other two individuals who were there regularly with their children," the complaint reads.
Authorities say before he killed himself the morning of Sept. 1, Gliniewicz radioed fellow officers that he was pursuing three suspicious people, two white males and one black male, near the village's old concrete plant. His false report coupled with the discovery of his body sparked a massive manhunt involving more than 100 officers that shuttered local businesses, resulted in schools being placed on lockdown and terrorized residents who feared killers were loose in their community.
Randolph says in the suit that he and his child were surrounded by armed federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm, and he was subject to search and interrogation "based on Gliniewicz's fictitious crime based solely on his race."
According to the complaint, Randolph first encountered Gliniewicz as a result of a traffic stop during which Gliniewicz performed what Randolph claims was an illegal search of his vehicle. Randolph says Gliniewicz asked where the drugs were. When Randolph responded he had no drugs, Gliniewicz dumped Randolph's backpack and told Randolph he would be watching him, "and if he (Randolph) did not 'make something happen for him' he would 'make something happen to him.' "
Two weeks later, Gliniewicz stopped Randolph again, the suit says, and asked about drugs. After Randolph responded he had no drugs, Gliniewicz threatened him again. The complaint alleges the pattern continued over several months, during which Randolph was subjected to repeated harassment and threats.
His lawyers claim their client "lived in fear that he was going to be falsely accused of murder" to the point it made him physically sick.
Attorney Kevin O'Connor said during the news conference he believes Gliniewicz "put a target on (Randolph's) back for almost a year," causing authorities to investigate Randolph as a possible suspect in the officer's death.
"Immediately that day they went to his house and were questioning him within hours of this whole occurrence. So he was pointed as being one of the targets," said O'Connor, who was joined by Randolph's father.
Randolph remains in the hospital undergoing tests brought on by anxiety and stress, O'Connor said. He expects to be released in a few days, O'Connor said.