Dwight Maness spent his 47th birthday Wednesday at a vigil for Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz, who was killed earlier this week in the line of duty.
It was the first birthday Maness, a McHenry County sheriff’s deputy, has celebrated since a shooter tried to take his life and the lives of his partners.
“We went to celebrate life,” Maness said. “Not to mourn, but to celebrate [Gliniewicz’s] life as well as mine.”
The thought that it could have been Maness’ wife on stage grieving her husband and thanking the community for their support was never far from their minds.
“Why do I get to live and he didn’t?” Maness said aloud.
Deputies Maness and Khalia Satkiewicz were ambushed by Holiday Hills shooter Scott B. Peters in the middle of the night on Oct. 16, 2014. Peters shot more than a dozen rounds through his front door at the deputies, who were responding to a domestic incident.
Peters continued firing and advanced as the officers retreated. A third deputy, Eric Luna, returned Peters’ gunfire and all three officers survived. So did Peters, who fled the area and led police on a 16-hour manhunt. After a trial in April, Peters was sentenced to 135 years in prison for the attempted murder of three deputies.
Not even one year ago, Maness and Satkiewicz languished in hospital beds after being shot on the job.
Not even one year ago, officers from police agencies across the region and state descended on McHenry County searching for the attempted murderer.
Not even a year has passed, and here we are again, Maness said from his McHenry home, where he’s still recovering from the gunshot wound to the leg that left him unable to walk without assistance. He has vowed to not only walk again, but to return to work. Just this week, his doctors said he was healing better than anticipated.
“This is a great community to live in, and for these people to come in and target police officers is just crazy,” Maness said. “It happens in little towns like Fox Lake and Holiday Hills. It happens in big towns like Chicago and Houston. It’s just crazy and it has to stop.”
Maness is still on the notification list for SWAT deployments, although his gear is hanging in a closet. Unused since the ambush. Early Tuesday, he got word that McHenry County’s SWAT team was headed to Fox Lake to assist with the manhunt for the men believed to have killed Gliniewicz.
“All my coworkers, all my friends are out there searching for these killers and I just felt helpless that I couldn’t be out there with them,” Maness said. “Hearing about the type of guy that Lt. Gliniewicz was, I’m sure he was one of the ones looking for Scott Peters. I just felt I needed to do something and I couldn’t.”
Nearby, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Robert Satkiewicz was driving through Fox Lake on Tuesday, he believes, around the time of the shooting. He was headed to court in Mundelein when he got a message than an officer had been shot.
He turned his squad car around and spent the next 14 hours helping in the search efforts. Last October, Robert Satkiewicz paced in the hospital room of his wife, Khalia, as he watched the manhunt for Peters unfold on the news, unable to do anything else.
“When Khalia and Dwight’s incident happened, I was extremely frustrated because I want to go out and help,” Robert Satkiewicz said. “It was hard for me to sit inside, because that’s the way we’re built. … We protect our sheep from the wolves.”
Robert made sure to take a minute to call Khalia and be the one to tell her the lieutenant had died.
“It just hit home that one of our brothers was gunned down,” Khalia said. “I can’t believe it happened in another small town. It doesn’t matter where we are: No town is immune from violence”
Robert Satkiewicz added: “This is my neighboring community. You start to wonder where the humanity has gone with these people. It just seems so easy for them to take a life without a thought.”
“That being said, I’ve seen communities rally around us, and that renews your faith. It renews your drive, and your purpose.”
Both families are aware of how close they came to being listed among the 51 officers killed in the line of duty as the result of criminal acts since October 2014.
Still, Robert said: “I can’t even imagine what the family is going to go through right now. I feel lucky I still have my wife. Dwight is still here. We’re all still here, and we still have each other.”
Dwight’s wife, Sue echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve told [Dwight] a million times, I would push you around in a wheelchair for the rest of our lives, as long as you’re here.”
For the Maness’, life is now divided into two parts: Life before the ambush, and life after. Life before was peaceful and full of laughter and love for the couple who found each other five years ago. After the ambush, there still is lots of love, but the family now understands truly how precious life really is.
“All those firsts this past year were so much more amazing than any other Christmas, any other Thanksgiving,” Sue Maness said.
Dwight added: “My heart breaks for all the families [of officers killed in the line of duty] … because they’re going to experience all these firsts without their husband without their father.”