When Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was found shot to death late this summer, the Illinois cop seemed like a hero gunned down by violent, vile criminals. The Fox Lake police officer had just radioed in that he was hot on the trail of three shady men, and a sprawling manhunt ensued to find his killers. Public officials of all stripes issued majestic eulogies, Gliniewicz's family and friends mourned, and cops around the country took notice of a case that seemed all the more significant thanks to a climate of increased suspicion and even hostility toward law enforcement.
But the demise of the man known locally as "GI Joe" was no murder.After months of investigation, local police announced Wednesday that Gliniewicz's death was a "carefully staged suicide," as the Daily Beast reports. Authorities spent hundreds of thousands of dollars chasing suspicious characters who did not exist, and Gliniewicz had allegedly been stealing from his own department's youth auxiliary fund to pay for everything from his mortgage to a porn habit. Whether the 52-year-old's fear of his embezzlement being unearthed drove him to suicide remains unclear.Thomas Rudd, the Lake County coroner who reportedly angered some local cops when he announced last month that the fatal shot came from the officer's own service weapon, indicated Wednesday that the shot was, in fact, delivered by Gliniewicz to his own chest, leaving no room for doubt on that front."This officer killed himself," Rudd said at a news conference.As the Washington Post reports, fewer American cops have been murdered in the line of duty this year compared to the same point in 2014, and those numbers are down substantially from decades past. But some cities like New York have seen a dramatic increase in police killings over the past year, most notably the execution-style slaying of two Brooklyn cops in December. Cops across America have also supposedly been too spooked about getting caught doing terrible things to properly do their jobs, an alleged phenomenon dubbed the "Ferguson effect" and recently endorsed (albeit with zero evidence) by none other than FBI Director James Comey.Ever since Eric Garner and Michael Brown were killed in the summer of 2014, police officers have grumbled about the public overreacting and expressed an increasingly urgent sense of victimization. As an active-duty New York City cop told VICE in an interview last week, "This country is becoming very anti-police." And there are, of course, plenty of legitimate reasons for cops to be nervous or even scared while they do their jobs, Likewise, there's a new video every week encouraging people to speak out against police misconduct. But the fake murder of Officer GI Joe in Illinois serves neither side—it's simply the tragic end to a troubled life.Follow Matt Taylor on Twitter.