Manhunt widens for suspects in Illinois policeman's death

By Suzannah Gonzales

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Hundreds of police on Wednesday widened the search for three suspects in the fatal shooting of a 30-year veteran policeman in northern Illinois, and mourners gathered in a vigil for the slain officer at a lake front park.

Investigators have been chasing leads, canvassing the area, collecting video evidence and reviewing information and the crime scene in the slaying of Fox Lake Police Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko told a news conference.

"They're turning over every leaf and blade of grass to see if there is anything else out there," he said.

Filenko called the suspects - described as two white men and a black man - "extremely dangerous."

"They shot a police officer, I think that speaks for itself."

An autopsy of Gliniewicz, 52, was conducted on Tuesday night, Filenko said, declining to offer details.

Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Christopher Covelli said the search for suspects has broadened and nearly 400 local police officers and federal agents, more than 45 canine units and at least six aircraft have been involved.

Covelli said the manhunt had previously covered about 2 square miles (5.2 square km) that included incorporated and unincorporated parts of Fox Lake, located nearly 60 miles (97 km) north of Chicago and close to the Wisconsin border.

All law enforcement agencies in the surrounding area, both in Illinois and beyond, including in southern Wisconsin, are on the lookout for the suspects, Covelli said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has set a no-fly zone over the search area.

Gliniewicz was found wounded on Tuesday morning after reporting that he was pursuing three suspects on foot. He later died.

A father of four boys and a decorated officer, Gliniewicz was known around the village as "G.I. Joe" and was dedicated to Fox Lake and his fellow officers, Mayor Donny Schmit said.

Hundreds of mourners packed a lake side park for a vigil for the slain officer on Wednesday evening, where his widow, Melodie Gliniewicz, described him as "my best friend, my world, my hero, the love of my life for the last 26 and a half years."

"He was my rock as much as I was his rock. Every night he came home to me. He was the most wonderful, caring and loving father to our boys," she said.

Gliniewicz retired as a first sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and earned several awards and commendations in the police department, including a medal of valor, a Fox Lake spokesman said. Gliniewicz also had been involved in a youth law enforcement training program for about a decade.

His loss "has left a large void in our community," a statement on the village website said. "Our hearts are very heavy."

CNN reported that Gliniewicz was weeks from retiring. Reuters has not confirmed the report.

Fox Lake area schools were closed on Wednesday due to police activity. Classes are set to resume on Thursday.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Bill Trott, Eric Walsh and Ken Wills)