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Lt. Joe Gliniewicz leaves behind a wife and four sons

He was an Army veteran and led the local police Explorers Post

Manhunt underway for three suspects after Gliniewicz gunned down

CNN  — 

Whoever killed Lt. Joe Gliniewicz probably didn’t know he was a father of four. They probably didn’t know he was just weeks away from retirement after serving 30 years. They probably didn’t know he spent his free time mentoring youths in the community.

But everything Gliniewicz lived for ended Tuesday when he was on patrol once again in Fox Lake, Illinois. He encountered three suspicious people and gave a description of the men over the radio, saying he was chasing them.

It was the last time anyone heard from Gliniewicz. The 52-year-old was gunned down, for no obvious reason. And a massive manhunt is underway to find the three suspects.

Above and beyond

Gliniewicz’s passion for police work went far beyond what he was paid to do. He helped lead the Fox Lake Police Department Explorers Post, which mentors young people hoping to become law enforcement officers.

“He truly loved his job. He loved doing things for the Explorers, and his Explorers was a huge part of his life,” said Devan Arbay, one of Gliniewicz’s Explorers.

Arbay said the program teaches what officers really go through – from traffic stops to first aid to searches.

“He really dedicated hundreds of thousands of hours into bettering the Fox Lake community, the Illinois Law Enforcement Explorers and the National Law Enforcement Explorers.”

Gliniewicz planned to retire last month, Chicago TV station WMAQ reported. But the police chief asked him to stay one more month to help out.

The day before his death, Gliniewicz met with Mayor Donny Schmit to discuss his retirement plans and to make sure the Explorers program continued without him, CNN affiliate WLS said.

“His commitment to the people of this community has been unmatched and will be dearly missed,” the mayor said Tuesday. “Not only did Fox Lake lose a family member, I lost a very dear friend.”

An Army veteran and father

Those who knew him well called him “GI Joe.”

Gliniewicz was an Army veteran who served in active duty and reserve from 1980 to 2007. He left the military with a rank of first sergeant.

Opinion: Police lives matter

But of all his accomplishments, many who knew Gliniewicz said his biggest source of pride was his family, WMAQ said. Gliniewicz and his wife, Melodie, were married for 30 years and had four sons, including one who serves in the Army.

A lasting legacy

When Arbay learned of his mentor’s death, the young man was in school.

“I immediately burst into tears, and I just couldn’t believe what I was being told,” he said. “It was heartbreaking for me, my Explorers, the community everyone.”

But he said his mentor’s death doesn’t deter him from becoming a police officer.

“Events like this will truly alter the opinions of some,” he said. “But for me, it truly makes myself want to become a police officer more and more and to fill his important work and continue doing what he did.”

America’s fallen officers

CNN’s Anderson Cooper contributed to this report.