Manhunt underway after Fox Lake police officer fatally shot

FOX 32's Larry Yellen contributed to this report.

FOX LAKE, Ill. (AP / STMW) -- Police in helicopters, with dogs and armed with rifles conducted a massive manhunt in northern Illinois into Tuesday night after an officer was fatally shot while pursuing a group of men.

An emotional Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit described the slain officer, Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, as a personal friend, a three-decade member of the department and a father of four sons.

"We lost a family member," Schmit said of the 52-year-old officer known around town as "GI Joe." "His commitment to the people of this community has been unmatched and will be dearly missed." 

Authorities said Gliniewicz radioed in to tell dispatchers he was chasing three men on foot in the village of Fox Lake, 55 miles north of Chicago. Communication with him was lost soon after, said Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli.

"His backup arrived shortly thereafter and found him injured with a gunshot wound," Covelli said.

The backup officer could be heard on the scanner saying: ” … send everybody you possibly can … officer is down …”

"The officer has succumbed to his injuries and passed away," Covelli added.

Undersheriff Raymond Rose told the Chicago Tribune that the officer had also been stripped of his gun and other equipment.

Less than an hour's drive from Chicago, the area is popular with boaters and for other outdoor pursuits because of its forest preserves and a chain of lakes that partly encircles Fox Lake. Some longtime city dwellers move to the region for what is normally a quieter lifestyle.

Police and other law enforcement officials, some of them in military-style camouflage, were seen taking up positions on rooftops and along railroad tracks, scanning the terrain with rifle scopes and binoculars. Others leaned out of helicopters with weapons at the ready.

Nearby Grant Community High School was placed on lockdown with children and staff instructed to say hidden and away from windows, and Schmit said that other schools were also put on lockdown, as staffers went from room to room to make sure the children were safe.

Authorities urged residents throughout the area to stay home while they conducted the search for three men, two of them white and the other black, using bloodhounds on the ground and helicopters above.

Jason Irvin lives alongside the marshy woodlands that were the main focus of the search.

“They searched our little garage, a garage in our house because it was open. they went in there and they just been here, walking up and down the streets with machine guns here, flying the helicopter, and pretty hectic, they told us to get in the house, couldn't leave the house,” Irvin said.

James Gertz has daughters at Grant Community High school where there was a heavy police presence, and at Stanton Middle School. The middle school was also locked down to protect students and teachers.

“I knew we were going be safe because we have a lot of security guards at our school,” said freshman Hailey.

“All the people in the school had to go the gym and it was really hot in there,” said Emilie.

The Gertz's also live near the marshy area where the suspects may have fled, and is doubtful that they would stayed there for long.

“If they stay in the tree area they might have a chance, but not in that marsh. There's leeches and everything in there, it's horrible. Snakes!” Gertz said.

The service of a local commuter train was halted and residents who wanted to take their dogs out to relieve themselves were told to stay in their homes -- with the job of walking the dogs handled by police officers.

Helicopters were to fly overnight and about 100 officers would be searching in and around Fox Lake for the suspects, Covelli said late Tuesday night.

Gliniewicz's death is the third law enforcement fatality in Illinois this year, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. It says firearms-related deaths in the U.S. are down 13 percent this year compared to the same period last year, Jan. 1. to Sept. 1; there were 30 last year and 26 this year.

Around Fox Lake, residents expressed their own sorrow over the death of the immensely popular Gliniewicz.

"This particular officer is a pillar in my community and definitely going to be missed, and (he) touched so many lives," said Gina Maria, a 40-year-old teacher who lives in the community.

“He was getting to retire,” said Terry Resetar with a broken voice, who's Gliniewicz mother-in-law.

Asked if Gliniewicz enjoyed being an officer, Resetar said, “Oh God, he loved it.”

State Rep. Barb Wheeler of Crystal Lake released a statement, saying: “Eleven police officers have needless lost their lives since Aug. 20th alone in America because of shootings and sadly our communities have been directly impacted today.

“As information continues to come in about the shooting of another police officer in the line of duty in Fox Lake, I hope we can all remain calm and pray for the officer’s family and the other officers in harms-way right now, ” Wheeler said.

Resetar said her family “will be OK.”

“What can you say, hun?” she told a reporter.

“The oldest [grandchild] called me this morning to be sure I was OK,” she said.

Asked if she had a message for those responsible for her son-in-law’s death, she said,”You don’t want my message to them.”

Resetar said her daughter and son-in-law went out to dinner last weekend to celebrate both of their August birthdays.

“Oh God,” she said.

Resident Mike Willin said he was watching television this morning about 9:30 a.m. when he saw the commotion.

“I saw the helicopters right above my house,” he said. “I thought, maybe it’s time for me to leave.”

Willin said police thoroughly checked him and his truck when he drove away from his home near Rollins Road and Route 59. He doesn’t plan to return home until the fugitives are caught.

Christina Barcal said the Fox Ridge subdivision where she lives, near Routes 12 and 59, has been locked down all day.

“This is crazy, they think they are hiding behind my house so I can’t go home,” Barcal said.

Barcal said people who left their homes were not allowed to return; however, people who were at home were told not to leave.

“My neighbor’s dogs had to go out so an officer took her dogs out to pee,” she said.

Gina Maria, a kindergarten teacher who lives in Fox Lake but works in Barrington, said she promptly left her class with a substitute when she got a message from her son about the lockdown at Grant High School.

“I’m here supporting law enforcement officers letting people know that police lives matter,” she said.

All residents were being asked to remain inside and call 911 if they see anything suspicious.

School District 15 in McHenry said on its website that all schools were put on soft lockdown “as a precaution” due to “police activity in Fox Lake.”

Also on soft lockdown were Gavin South Middle School and Gavin Central Elementary School in Ingleside; as well as Grant High in Fox Lake.

Metra has closed its Ingleside station due to the ongoing police activity. Commuters are advised to use the Long Lake or Fox Lake stations instead.

Several area roads are also closed.

SCHOOL CLOSINGS FOR WEDNESDAY DUE TO MANHUNT:

Grant Community High School

Fox Lake District 114

Big Hollow District 38

Gavin District 37

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