CHICAGO — A cop who shot an ailing 95-year-old World War II veteran with beanbag rounds at a senior living facility faces a felony charge and serious questions about how his department handled the man, who later died of his injuries.
Craig Taylor, 43, a Park Forest police officer for 10 years, appeared before a judge Wednesday on a charge of reckless conduct and was released without bail. Taylor was one of five officers summoned to Victory Centre assisted living — including a commander — in July 2013 to deal with a combative resident, John Wrana, who refused to be taken by paramedics to the hospital for treatment of a urinary tract infection.
Wrana, wielding a cane, a knife and a 2-foot-long shoehorn, was Tasered and then shot with beanbag rounds five times at close range as police rushed him behind a riot shield, reports Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, citing an Illinois State Police investigation.
Wrana — who couldn't get around without the aid of a cane or walker — later died at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. An autopsy showed he suffered internal bleeding after the beanbags struck him in the abdomen.
Taylor is the only officer charged, but questions have been raised by Kass in a series of columns about how the officers and the department handled the feeble and sick old man.
Staff at Victory Centre called 911 on July 27: "We have a resident that is threatening to harm other residents and staff," an employee said on the 911 call released to news media. "The EMTs are here now, and he is trying to hit them."
Wrana picked up a knife and barricaded himself in the room after that call. Police later said Wrana had a 12-inch butcher knife. An officer shot Wrana with a Taser, but that did not subdue him.
In court Wednesday, prosecutors said the decision by police to enter Wrana's room in force was made within seven minutes of arriving at the care facility. Kass has reported that staff members were not in the room at the time but urged police to let them try to talk Wrana out of the situation.
"Other viable options to de-escalate and resolve the matter safely were ignored, including allowing Wrana to remain alone in his room while the officers attempted to calm him down through the closed door," said an assistant state's attorney in court.
A lawyer representing the Wrana family, Nicholas Grapsas, said involuntary manslaughter should be the charge brought against Taylor, not reckless conduct.
Taylor's attorney told reporters the officer was not in charge on the scene and is "devastated."
"Today he was fingerprinted, he was handcuffed, he was hauled into court. He, his family, and the entire police department of Park Forest is just devastated by this," Terry Ekl told reporters after Wednesday's hearing, adding that Taylor will go to trial.
In releasing Taylor without bail, Judge Donald Panarese Jr. said "it’s a tragedy all around."
Since July, Kass has written several columns on Wrana's death and the subsequent State Police investigation.
Wrana's stepdaughter, Sharon Mangerson, and Kass have questioned why the investigation took so long to complete. At this time, it's unclear why charges have only been brought against one officer.
In one column, Kass noted that someone afflicted with a urinary tract infection may suffer symptoms of paranoia, which could have explained Wrana's belligerent refusal to go to the hospital.
Mangerson has said her stepdad "was physically quite fragile. Mentally though, he was sharp."Wrana served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, fighting in Burma. When he died, he was just weeks away from his 96th birthday.
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