Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Fox Lake Cop’s Estate, City Officials

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(CNN) — A man who says he was “singled out” by police immediately following the staged suicide of Lt. Joe Gliniewicz has filed a lawsuit against the officer’s estate and the Village of Fox Lake, Illinois, his lawyer said Friday.

In the federal lawsuit, Vernon Randolph III claims Gliniewicz harassed and intimidated him for almost a year before the officer’s death. Afterward, Randolph “was fearful he could be wrongfully charged with Gliniewicz’s fictitious murder,” the lawsuit said.

Randolph’s attorney, Kevin O’Connor, says the Village of Fox Lake is also a defendant in the lawsuit “for their knowingly providing a culture which allowed for this type of abuse.”

“It caused such distress that it caused Vernon to be hospitalized,” O’Connor said.

Gliniewicz committed suicide, but staged his death to appear as if he were killed by three assailants, setting off a massive manhunt for what turned out to be a ruse, authorities said.

Randolph contends police considered him a suspect and was targeted in the manhunt.

The officer’s estate representative, village officials, Mayor Donny Schmit, and former Police Chief Michael Behan couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Friday. They are defendants in the civil suit.

Randolph, an African-American resident, charged that Gliniewicz had earlier targeted him because of his race in the mostly white community and conducted illegal stops and searches of Randolph’s car on several occasions over almost a year, according to the lawsuit and the attorney.

Randolph, a student at McHenry County College where he plays basketball, charged that Gliniewicz falsely accused him of possessing drugs and threatened that he would make something happen to Randolph “if he did not get him information” about who had drugs, the lawsuit said.

O’Connor told reporters that Gliniewicz had likely circulated Randolph’s name to other officers.

After Gliniewicz’s death, Randolph “was surrounded by ATF agents with guns pointed at him and his child,” a daughter who attends an elementary school in Fox Lake, the lawsuit said.

Randolph gave a DNA swab sample to investigators, and his home was also searched, the lawsuit said.

Randolph’s father, who was also at Friday’s press conference, said the manhunt appeared as if his son were being framed for an officer’s murder.

“It spooked us,” said Vernon Randolph Jr. “It’s an undescribable feeling.”

Gliniewicz, a Fox Lake police officer, was found dead September 1 after he’d made radio calls saying that he was pursuing three suspects into a wooded area, investigators said.

A huge manhunt continued for several days, but no arrests were made. The entire community mourned the death of the cop they affectionately called “G.I. Joe.”

Earlier this month, authorities announced their conclusion that Gliniewicz shot himself after he stole thousands of dollars from the Police Explorer post he helped run. The 30-year veteran also may have been plotting a murder, investigators say.

Authorities began to seriously suspect in October that Gliniewicz committed suicide after bank statements and text messages revealed the extent of his stealing, said George Filenko, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force commander.

Investigators are now scrutinizing Gliniewicz’s wife and son to determine whether they were involved in the thefts, three law enforcement sources have told CNN.

Gliniewicz’s file shows at least five suspensions, 10 violations of department rules and procedures, and accounts of three notable incidents — including one in which he threatened a colleague and another in which he was found passed out in the driver’s seat of his personal vehicle, “with the engine running full throttle with his foot on the gas.” In the third case, commanders accused him of leaving a crime scene unattended, according to the documents.

Investigators also say Gliniewicz discussed meeting with a gang member, possibly to arrange killing the village administrator in Fox Lake, with whom he said he had clashed over the Explorer program and its assets.

The lawsuit accuses the village and its officials of allowing “Gliniewicz to remain on the Village of Fox Lake Police Department knowing the extent of his misconduct and/or disregard for the department’s policies regarding police misconduct.”