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Coroner Who Ruled Death Of 'Hero Cop' A Suicide Talks About Autopsy Process


We now return to a story that riveted the country earlier this fall - the death of Fox Lake, Ill., police lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The veteran police lieutenant was shot during a foot chase and was found stripped of his weapon.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Authorities have conducted a massive manhunt for those thought to be responsible.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Investigators, with the help of federal agencies, continue to follow leads and try and match that DNA...

MARTIN: Back in September, Gliniewicz's death not only triggered a huge manhunt, it also fed into a national dialogue about whether increased scrutiny of police conduct is making them targets for violence. But the story took a very strange turn this week when authorities concluded that Gliniewicz carefully staged his own suicide to look like murder, perhaps to escape discovery of embezzlement and other serious misconduct.

Dr. Thomas Rudd is the coroner of Lake County, Ill., and one of the first officials to suggest the possibility of suicide. Welcome, thanks so much for speaking with us.

THOMAS RUDD: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: What was the evidence that led you to - first, your preliminary finding that this was a suicide?

RUDD: Basically, after leaving the autopsy table and examining this decedent, there were no defensive wounds. That was very unusual. This was an officer who was very well-built. He was in the Army Reserves. He knew how to defend himself. So I kept thinking, how did somebody get a gun this close to his chest and he did not fight back? So I kept thinking, this has to be something else other than a homicide. And I started questioning the evidence that was coming in.

MARTIN: What was the reaction when you first disclosed your hypothesis about this? As I recall, the chief was not pleased at all. And in fact...

RUDD: No, no.

MARTIN: ...You were criticized for jeopardizing...

RUDD: Right.

MARTIN: ...The investigation - is what I recall.

RUDD: That's correct. I wanted to allay the fear in the community of how he was shot. So I just issued a brief press release that he had a catastrophic gunshot wound to his torso, and I got attacked for that.

MARTIN: What are you feeling about all this right now, after being kind of the center of this maelstrom?

RUDD: Well, first of all, I'm sorry for the officer's death. He died of a suicide. No matter what he did, that's a tragedy. Number two, I'm glad it's over because I need to pursue other tasks in my office, and I will continue to work as a professional. I don't hold grudges.

MARTIN: I'm reminding all of us that this happened on September 1, when there was a big - and it continues - you know, a big national conversation about people of color, particularly African-Americans being killed by police officers. And then this whole other question has arisen, which the head of the FBI stoked recently in suggesting that, you know, perhaps there's another thing going on - police officers being killed. So all of this is kind of part of the backdrop of what was happening in your community. And I wondered if you had any thoughts about that and how that influenced the whole way these things proceeded?

RUDD: There's no question there were minorities being killed by police and there were police being assassinated by criminal elements. I believe, New York City, there were two officers killed in their car, right during daylight. And I think it was a knee-jerk reaction to praise the police for what they do and the job they do. Had it been correct, then I don't think we'd be finding fault.

MARTIN: Dr. Thomas Rudd is the coroner of Lake County, Ill. This week, he ruled the death of officer Charles Joseph Gliniewicz a suicide. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

RUDD: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.