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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Illinois Police Shooting Carefully Staged Suicide; Lake County, Illinois, Police Press Conference; Evidence Gliniewicz Was Stealing from Police Explorer Program. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 4, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm John Berman.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
Breaking news AT THIS HOUR, we're awaiting official word out of Illinois right now about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of an Illinois police lieutenant. He was found dead in early September. He was shot twice with his own gun.
BOLDUAN: You'll remember this sparked a huge manhunt. Hundreds of local and federal agents scouring the small community around Fox Lake looking for clues. And nationwide it raised more questions over whether police officers were coming under attack.
But now, this morning, we're being told by officials that the Army veteran and father of four likely committed suicide.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick following this story for us.
And, Deborah, this would be a strange ending to a really mysterious story.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and it is very strange, indeed. There was a lot of confusion as to why the coroner initially would not rule this a straight-out homicide, especially since police officers --
BOLDUAN: Deb, Deb, we're going to cut you off right now.
The news conference actually just started. Let's go to Fox Lake.
DET. CHRISTOPHER COVELLI, MAJOR CRIME TASK FORCE, LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I'm Detective Christopher Covelli, C-O-V-E-L-L- I, for the Major Crime Task Force. I'm joined today by commander of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, Chief George Filenko, F-I-L-E- N-K-O; and Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd.
Two months have passed since the death of Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz. Since day one of this incident, investigators have tirelessly worked day and night, diligently searching for answers. This investigative team included members of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force as well as our federal partners, the FBI, the ATF, Secret Service, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Marshals Service. This was an extraordinarily complex investigation with many moving parts which resulted in over 150 separate investigators spending over 25,000 hours investigating this case. Over 430 leads were examined. Over 250 pieces of evidence were collected and submitted to local and federal crime labs for analysis. Thousands of pages of financial documents were reviewed. Over 6500 pages of text messages were reviewed just from Lieutenant Gliniewicz's personal cell phone. Over 30,000 telephone numbers were reviewed for comparison. Over 40,000 e- mails were reviewed. During this process, we appreciate the cooperation and assistance from the village of Fox Lake and village administrator, Ann Marin.
The interest of justice requires a methodical, thorough and complete investigation. This has been done. Even though some develop their own theories or felt a need to criticize, we had a job to do, and we have done it. While some wanted the results fast, we wanted them right. We were obligated to prove our conclusions before we reported to you and the public we serve. We are thankful for the support and patience of the Fox Lake and surrounding communities while we inspected all of the evidence, systematically explored every tip, every lead and every possible option.
Today, we will discuss the findings and conclusions of our investigation into the death of Lieutenant Gliniewicz. We have two principal speakers, Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko and Coroner Dr. Rudd. We will take questions at the end of the statement and ask that all questions be held until then.
I'm first going to turn the mic over to Commander Filenko.
GEORGE FILENKO, COMMANDER, MAJOR CRIME TASK FORCE & CHIEF, LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Good morning. We're here to wrap -- we're here this morning to wrap up the investigation into the death of Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz. This extensive investigation has concluded with an overwhelming amount of evidence that Gliniewicz's death was a carefully staged suicide. We have determined this staged suicide was the end result of extensive criminal acts that Gliniewicz had been committing. In fact, he was under increasing levels of personal stress from scrutiny of his management of the Fox Lake Police Explorer Unit. We have the highest degree of confidence in the facts which led us to this conclusion, which Lake County coroner Dr. Rudd will confirm. In addition, we have concurrence of our investigative partners, federal, state including the FBI, their behavioral analysis unit, and the ATF. With those partners, our investigation strongly indicates criminal activity on the part of at least two other individuals. Because that part of the investigation is open and will be ongoing, we will have no further comment on that aspect of the investigation.
[11:05:15] Here's a brief summary of the important elements of the investigation which led us to these conclusions. Further elaboration and further detailed information regarding these facts are provided to all of you in your handouts. The investigation found Gliniewicz had been stealing and laundering money from the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post. This had been occurring over the past seven years. Gliniewicz was also found to have forged signatures on official documents. Thousands of dollars were used by Gliniewicz for personal purchases, travel expenses, mortgage payments, personal gym memberships, adult websites, facilitating personal loans, and unaccounted cash withdrawals. The documents discovered with forged signatures were requisitions for federal surplus equipment and official Police Explorer documents. We recovered electronic messages that were deleted from Gliniewicz's personal and work cellular phone, including incriminating statements that had been deleted prior to his suicide. A selection of those deleted messages is available in your media handout packets as well.
Our investigation has determined conclusively that Gliniewicz intentionally left a staged trail of police equipment at the crime scene. Analysts determined the trail of equipment consisting of pepper spray, a baton and his personal glasses was an attempt to mislead first responders and investigators to believe this was a homicide scene. It was learned through investigation Gliniewicz had significant experience staging mock crime scenes for Police Explorer training. The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit has concurred that this was a staged scene, in part, because there were no signs of Gliniewicz being dragged after the initial shot and no physical signs that he fought for his life.
We have also concluded that Gliniewicz strategically aimed the first of two shots at the lower abdominal area, striking his cellular phone and bulletproof vest, which absorbed most of the impact of the first shot. Advanced ballistic testing with the use of ultraviolet photographic equipment conducted by the Northern Illinois Regional Crime Lab confirmed both gunshots were fired at close range. Gunshot residue was found in the interior of Gliniewicz's bulletproof vest cover when the second fatal round was fired, which indicates the gun was placed underneath the vest carrier when the fatal round was fired.
As we pursued the Gliniewicz investigation, all possible death scenarios were considered, including the possibility of homicide as well as suicide. In this matter, we presumed no facts prior to or during the investigation. We had no preconceived notions as to what occurred, nor did we prejudge the outcome of this investigation. Justice and our system of law demand nothing less. There are no winners here. Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community. The facts of his actions prove he behaved for years in a manner completely contrary to the image he portrayed.
COVELLI: I'd like to introduce Dr. Thomas Rudd.
DR. THOMAS RUDD, LAKE COUNTY CORONER: Good morning. I'm the Lake County coroner. I have two statements to make before we review the findings of the autopsy.
First, I want to acknowledge the hard work done by all law enforcement agencies involved in investigating the scene and circumstances of the death of this officer. What appeared to be a slow process was done, in my opinion, in a very timely manner.
Second, by law, the Lake County Coroner's Office is mandated to investigate all deaths within our jurisdiction, which means within Lake County. We are to do the cause of death as well as the manner of death.
[11:09:56] The cause of death of Lieutenant Gliniewicz was established as a result of objective medical evidence obtained at the autopsy. This office follows the principles and protocols of the National Association of Medical Examiners.
The cause of death was published earlier, approximately 10 days after his death by me in a newspaper article that said there was a catastrophic gunshot wound to the torso. We can now expand on that. As Chief Filenko said, this appears to be a staged suicide. And the first shot hit his right chest region. It went through the phone, lodged into his bulletproof vest. It did not penetrate his skin. Therefore it did not penetrate any body cavity, either the pleural or the abdominal. It was just below the ribcage. However, it did cause a bruise that measured four inches by four inches. It was reddish pink, indicating a recent injury by the bullet. This means that the small blood vessels ruptured in the superficial surface of the skin. These are the capillaries that are easily damaged. The fatal catastrophic gunshot wound, as the chief said, was in the left upper chest. It was located approximately two inches between -- below the collar of the bulletproof vest. Therefore, the gun had to be placed in such an angle that the gun was close to the chest. It went under the vest at a 40-degree angle, which was confirmed by the trajectory of the bullet. It hit the pulmonary artery, causing massive blood loss, approximately 1,200 C.C.s, which would be equivalent to a little less than three pints of blood. As this officer is bleeding internally, the lung is collapsing. There's atelectasis occurring. Blood is filling up into the lung. The bullet then hits the left hilum. This is a region where the major bronchi and blood vessels go in and out of the lung. It courses through the bottom of the lung, continuing, causing collapse and bleeding, and lodges at the tenth rib. Now, there is an exit wound, but the bullet doesn't come out because it hits the bulletproof vest. It's called a shored exit wound. Instead of being a cookie-cutter, sharp exit wound, it's a ragged-edged wound.
In summary, we have two bullets shot into this officer. I agree with the findings that this was a carefully staged suicide. This officer killed himself.
Oh, sorry, George.
COVELLI: We'll open it up now for questions and answers, understanding the fact that there are criminal investigations ongoing from what we've learned from the investigation into Lieutenant Gliniewicz. We ask that media personnel here raise their hands just so we can answer everybody's questions in a timely fashion.
Yes, sir. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was it your sense that investigators were
closing in on him? Tell us specifically what you believe was the pressure point that led to the suicide.
FILENKO: I think it was a culmination of issues over a six-month period. That's what we learned in great detail from the text messages that we recovered in that 6,500 pages of text messages combined with bank records, thousands of pages of those that were analyzed by an FBI forensic accountant at our request. So this process probably began about six months ago and then culminated to a peak within the week of the staged suicide.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) the fact that, for many of us, phone calls were coming in within 24, certainly within 48 hours of a suicide. Certainly that must have come up. During this time, a massive community search was held which was attended by thousands of police officers. (INAUDIBLE) some in the community would probably ask at this point how you could allow that kind of thing to happen when questions were being raced about the veracity about the crime scene. Would you address that?
FILENKO: The question is -- and I'm summarize it for those in the back -- is how we could allow a massive tribute to occur when there were rumors spreading throughout the community that this might be a suicide? It would be irresponsible on our part not to conduct a thorough and detailed investigation. And in the first several weeks of this investigation, there was nothing that we had that was leading us towards determining this as being a suicide. We conducted a thorough and detailed investigation that ultimately, with the support of the FBI who worked with us lockstep and other federal agencies by providing us support and all this information that ultimately led us to this conclusion.
[11:15:43] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You knew pretty much right away (INAUDIBLE) the gun, and you knew on October 1st that the bullet came from his gun. What was the last month of the investigation?
FILENKO: The last month of the investigation is entailed in the review of those documents that we have obtained, those text messages that you have a small sampling of. I mean, there are 6,500 of those deleted within a short period of time prior to the staged suicide. So the combination of all of that and other discoveries that we made throughout the investigation within the last 30 days led to this conclusion.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) were you made aware of this investigation into the financial activity (INAUDIBLE)?
FILENKO: As is our protocol? The question was how soon after his death did we start looking into the financial aspect? Am I correct? Did I become aware of that? As is our protocol in any investigation in a homicide, we immediately start requesting financial and background information. That's referred to as a victimology. That's inclusive of that. Part of the delay in obtaining that is some of that isn't readily available or immediately available from the sources. In this case, we had to extract that information through Quantico. Specifically, I'm referring to the text messaging, which took a substantial amount of time. The bank records -- banks, some cooperate very quickly. Others, it may take 30 to 60 to 90 days to retrieve some of those records.
FILENKO: I'm sorry, sir, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it possible that Lieutenant Gliniewicz might not have been discovered had he not taken his own life?
FILENKO: I can tell you that eventually they would have been discovered because regardless of the fact that Lieutenant Gliniewicz staged his suicide, the village of Fox Lake had begun conducting a thorough internal audit of all of their assets. And eventually, as we found was indicated in some of those messages that we retrieved, that that was a concern that that audit was going to eventually lead to the discovery of this financial malfeasance.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was that prompted by suspicions of the lieutenant or prompted just because they were doing an audit?
FILENKO: No. I believe -- and I don't want to answer out of turn for the village of Fox Lake, but I believe they're doing a systematic audit of the entire village. I understand the village administrators will be making some closing comments here. That would be a question I'd defer to her.
BERMAN: All right. Stunning developments from Fox Lake, Illinois. Not just one, but I would say two bombshells involving the death of Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz, died two months ago right now. He was found after being shot. At the time, there was an intense manhunt.
BOLDUAN: Intense manhunt following.
BERMAN: They believed he had been murdered, perhaps. Now we are learning this. Officials there investigating this say it was a carefully staged suicide. The lieutenant had been involved in extensive criminal acts and stealing, money laundering for more than seven years. He had extensive experience staging crime scenes. They called this the ultimate betrayal.
BOLDUAN: Stealing from the program that he was leading. This Explorers program you heard referenced, this was a community outreach program where they work with young adults who aspire to get into careers in law enforcement, and that's where he would have this experience -- this experience staging mock crime scenes. The investigators also saying he spent thousands on travel, mortgage payments, gym memberships, adult websites, facilitating personal loans, and also unaccounted cash withdrawals. And one line that absolutely stands out when you talk about -- they
talked about the betrayal that he had committed. He committed the ultimate betrayal, they said, to his community and to the force that he served.
[11:20:14] So much coming out in this. Let's discuss just some of the elements that we're learning here, the forensics as well as this massive investigation in all the pieces of evidence that they have. With us right now, we have former NYPD Detective Gil Alba; as well as CNN contributor and forensic scientist, Larry Kobilinsky.
Were do we begin? There are so many elements. First, to the investigative side, Gil. They listed everything they had gone through to get where they are today. Because we were going to ask, at one point, why did it take so long? When you think of the thousands of pages of documents, the hundreds of pieces of evidence, 6,500 text messages just on his phone that they went through, this is amazing that all of this came out.
GIL ALBA, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE & CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Tremendous job by the police department and not letting it come out before. It's not only -- this wasn't only the investigation of a suicide, this is the continuation of everything that he was involved with. The question is why did he kill himself originally? So that's, you know --
BOLDUAN: That's the biggest question.
BERMAN: That's the biggest quest. One of the things they suggested is there was an internal audit that was going on, and he feared that sooner or later, he would be found out.
Larry, there's something very interesting here. So he was shot twice.
LARRY KOBILINSKY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Right.
BERMAN: Right? One of the shots went into his cell phone and into his bulletproof vest. The other shot behind or underneath the bulletproof vest into his chest. There are people who have suggested, well, you know, a guy killing himself doesn't shoot himself twice. But the forensic -- the pathologist went into this evidence at length.
KOBILINSKY: Well, that's true. You know, I think many people think that you have an autopsy, you right away know the cause of death and the manner of death. That's simply not the case. It's much more complicated than that. You know, the autopsy is going to reveal a lot about the ballistics, the track of the bullet, which shot was fired first. Remember, this started out as a homicide investigation.
KOBILINSKY: So it wasn't complete until everything was tested. Enormous numbers of pieces of evidence had to be looked at. We haven't even heard about DNA on the gun. If he fired the gun himself, his DNA would be on the gun. But was there any other kind of DNA, any other donor of DNA to that gun? I mean, we haven't heard anything. But it's much more complicated than people think. Obviously, realizing that he had not fired a lethal shot, he then proceeded to fire the second shot. And everything seems to match a self-inflicted wound. But remember, it's still -- this is kind of still circumstantial. Until you put it all together, and putting it all together means the complete detective investigation, a psychological autopsy, if you will. The FBI Behavioral Unit was looking at his history and what was going through his mind and was there a reason that he might have committed suicide. It's all got to be put together to reconstruct what actually happened. It's not so simple.
BOLDUAN: It sure doesn't seem simple, at the very least.
Let's bring in Deborah Feyerick.
Deb, you've been following this amazing -- this mystery and now wild story as we're getting the details here. One thing that I felt was very important that they noted is there's still an ongoing investigation. Two other individuals, as they said, that they're looking into that could be connected to this. What are you hearing about this?
FEYERICK: Yeah, absolutely. And the question that I was expecting to be asked is, are these other police officers, or are these family members or friends? Because that's also going to be sort of a big issue. But a couple of things that really jumped out at me is the fact that this police officer, this lieutenant for seven years, had been stealing and laundering money from a program that he himself was responsible for running. And this program trained young people, teenagers, who wanted to be police officers. And according to the press conference, he was forging signatures on these sorts of federal requisition forms and taking the money that he got to buy gear and instead using it on himself to pay his mortgages, you say, to pay services on an adult website and also just sort of pay other people near him. And the fact that this was such a carefully staged suicide, they pointed out that he had a lot of experience because of his position training other sort of aspiring police officers. He knew exactly how to stage a mock crime scene. That's exactly, it appears, what he did, he took his personal glasses, he took pepper spray, and he took a baton, and he sort of left that trail around him. Though what the police officers said that they did not find, they did not find that there was a sign of a struggle. There was no sign that he had been dragged. Because if you've got somebody who's shooting you, the one thing you do want to do is kind of move the body so nobody finds it. But they really looked at a lot of evidence, 6,500 texts that the lieutenant deleted just before this death.
BOLDUAN: There's so many in that community found it so hard to belief that this was a suicide.
BERMAN: And they were scared. They were down and out scared for weeks after that because they thought there was a cop killer or several on the loose.
[11:25:15] BOLDUAN: And now the details coming out, no less troubling in what exactly went down. Overwhelming amount of evidence that this was a carefully staged suicide. That from officials there in Lake County, Illinois.
Gil, thank you very much.
Larry, thank you very much.
Deborah, it's always great to see you.
Thank you all very much.
Amazing information coming out of Illinois today.
Ahead for us, we have brand-new clues in the mystery jet ISIS claims they took down. 224 people killed. What investigators are finding on the victims that could help determine why that plane crashed.
BERMAN: Plus, Donald Trump says Marco Rubio's credit cards are a disaster. Turns out, the Senator has not released all the records that exist on the matter. So is there anything else interesting that's still out there?