Illinois Police Officer's Death 'to Be Ruled Likely Suicide'

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By Phil Helsel

Authorities in Illinois are expected to announce Wednesday that investigators believe a police officer who was found shot dead in September committed suicide, a law enforcement official familiar with the findings told NBC Chicago.

Fox Lake police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz was found dead Sept. 1, after reporting that he was checking out three suspicious individuals. The report sparked a massive manhunt for persons of interest in the shooting.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said the purpose of Wednesday’s press conference was to announce "significant new information" in the investigation, but did not elaborate.

The Associated Press, citing an official briefed on the crime investigation, also reported late Tuesday that officials will say Wednesday they believe the cause of the officer’s death was suicide.

The Lake County sheriff's office said in a statement it would have no comments about Tuesday's reports, and cautioned against reporting "rumors, innuendo, hearsay, and speculation," NBC Chicago reported.

Some details of Gliniewicz’ death remained unclear in the weeks after his body was found.

Gliniewicz said on radio transmissions that he was going to check on three suspicious men near an old cement plant shortly before 8 a.m. on Sept. 1, and his body was later found in a marshy area, officials have said.

A manhunt was launched for the three people referenced in the radio report. State, local and federal officers joined in the search.

Dozens of armed officers, police dogs and air support scoured an Illinois corn field after a woman reported that she saw suspicious men — officials later said it appears the woman lied about the sighting.

Three people were also questioned but later ruled out as suspects, NBC Chicago reported.

Amid the manhunt, the Lake County sheriff’s office publicly criticized the county coroner for releasing information about the shooting.

Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd told NBC Chicago at that time that without more information from police he couldn’t rule out causes of death, including suicide. The sheriff’s office called the comments "irresponsible."

RELATED: Investigators Blast Coroner's Comments in Probe of Illinois Cop's Killing

On Oct. 1, a month after Gliniewicz’ death, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said the officer was shot twice with his own gun.

Flineko said Gliniewicz was shot once on the right side of his vest, and once in the upper left chest region — but he also said there was evidence that could indicate a struggle took place.

Gliniewicz, 52, was a 30-year veteran of the police department. His family has dismissed suggestions that the officer may have killed himself.