Trial Concludes for Cop Who Killed 95-Year-Old WW2 Veteran With Multiple Bean Bag Rounds

On July 26, 2013, while Wrana was staying at the at the Park Forest Assisted Living Center in Park Forest, Illinois, he refused to give a urine sample and became belligerent, apparently threatening staff with his cane for which he was completely dependant upon to walk.

The staff called police, who came in full riot gear complete with body armor and riot shields. Wrana was alone in his room when officer Taylor entered with 4-7 other cops, tased him and pumped several rounds of bean bags from a 12-gauge shotgun into Wrana's abdomen from only 5 feet away.

Bean bags shot from a shotgun travel at 190 miles per hour.

Police claim the veteran threatened them with a knife and a shoehorn. Still, several cops in full riot gear can't handle a 95-year-old man who must walk with a cane without having to shooting him multiple times?

Officer Craig Taylor claimed ‘I was just doing my job'



Article on Trial Result:

The judge was only halfway through his ruling Wednesday when it became clear that Park Forest police Officer Craig Taylor would not be held criminally responsible for firing beanbag rounds at a knife-wielding World War II veteran who died hours later of internal bleeding.

In describing Taylor's actions that night in July 2013, Cook County Associate Judge Luciano Panici began using terms like “fearing for his life” and “reasonable use of force.”

Across the courtroom, relatives of the 95-year-old victim, John Wrana Jr., held each other in the Markham courtroom, tears in their eyes.

Taylor's acquittal on a single felony count of reckless conduct marked a dramatic end to a case that highlighted the difficulty of proving criminal charges against an officer who insisted he had acted out of fear for his life and that of other officers with him

After the verdict, Alvarez defended bringing the charge against Taylor, saying that she truly believed his actions were reckless and that the trial “shed a light on police procedures.”

“I really think other actions could have been taken and more restraint shown,” Alvarez told reporters after attending an unrelated sentencing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago.

Taylor, 44, had faced anywhere from probation up to three years in prison if convicted.

The case against Taylor unfolded amid national scrutiny on police use-of-force tactics sparked by the high-profile deaths of two unarmed black men in Missouri and New York. While lacking the racial element of those controversial cases, Taylor's trial focused on a similar theme: When should an officer's use of force be considered excessive?

In his ruling, Panici said the legal answer to that question requires thinking about the use of force “from the perspective of the officer, not the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

Noting that Taylor's commander — who was not charged — had come up with the plan to have Taylor shoot beanbag rounds from a shotgun if Wrana continued to disobey commands, Panici said Taylor's decision to fire five shots in rapid succession was “not excessive.”

“He was faced with an advancing individual with a knife over his head, threatening to kill him and his fellow police officers,” Panici said. “There was nothing criminal about his actions.”

Alvarez said prosecutors considered charging the officer's supervisor as well but ultimately decided against it after a “legal analysis of accountability.”

“Based on the facts and the law, we felt that the charges should only be brought against the officer who actually took the actions,” she said.

After the ruling, Taylor's lawyer, Terry Ekl, told reporters it was a “shame” that Taylor had to go through the trauma of being arrested, handcuffed and brought to court. But he also said that by having the facts aired out in court, the public was able to see that Taylor “did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Asked how the indictment had impacted Taylor, Ekl said, “He has not had a good night's sleep since the day he found out he was being indicted. He wakes up in the middle of the night. It's had a terrible effect on him emotionally.”

Taylor, who has been on desk duty since being charged last April, hopes to return to active duty, but he still faces a multimillion-dollar wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Wrana's family in U.S. District Court. Ekl said he would not let Taylor publicly comment on his acquittal because of the pending lawsuit.

The Wrana family had no comment on the verdict. But in a statement issued to the Tribune on Wednesday afternoon, their attorney in the lawsuit said the family “looks towards their day in federal court where they believe that all (of) the persons responsible for John Wrana's homicide will be held accountable under the civil law.”

Prosecutors argued during the three-day bench trial in January that Taylor and four other officers had rushed to judgment the night they were called to Wrana's room, deciding within minutes to employ a “violent extrication” that led to Wrana's death.

According to trial testimony, officers had twice gone into Wrana's room, only to retreat after he threatened them — first with a long, red-handled shoehorn and his black metal cane, later with a filleting knife with a 7-inch blade.

Cmdr. Michael Baugh conferred outside Wrana's apartment with Cpl. Lloyd Elliot, then instructed the group to form a “stack” — a staggered, single-file line — to enter Wrana's room, with Baugh in the lead carrying a shield and Taser, according to testimony.

Baugh ordered Wrana to drop the knife. When he didn't, the commander fired the Taser, but its prongs missed.

Taylor, who was second in the line, twice ordered Wrana to drop the knife and then fired the beanbag rounds. Four rounds struck Wrana, who dropped the knife into a small plastic garbage can after being struck in the hand by the final shot.

Wrana died five hours later after refusing surgery to repair an intestine that was torn and other injuries that caused massive internal bleeding.

In the trial's emotional highlight, Taylor testified that he feared for his life and those of his fellow officers when Wrana took a shuffling step forward with the knife raised. Taylor said that after the first shot or two failed to stop Wrana, he thought he had the authority to use lethal force — opening fire with his handgun — but chose not to, in part because of Wrana's advanced age.

Prosecutors alleged Taylor fired the rounds from a much closer range than called for during training. Their case also rested heavily on Francis Murphy, a former Secret Service supervisor who testified that the officers had other options and escalated the confrontation by storming Wrana's room.

Murphy testified the officers could have used their ballistic shield to knock Wrana to the ground, deployed pepper spray to disable him or simply retreated and allowed him time to cool off.

But the judge blasted those assertions in his ruling, saying staff at the facility had been trying to calm him down “for the entire day” to no avail.

“The evidence clearly indicated that Mr. Wrana had become more agitated as time progressed,” Panici said.


Pre-trial article:

CHICAGO (CBS) – The trial for a Park Forest police officer charged with felony reckless conduct in the death of an elderly man was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Officer Craig Taylor shot 95-year-old John Wrana with multiple bean bag rounds inside an assisted living facility in the summer of 2013.

Police were trying to subdue Wrana — a World War II veteran — after he became belligerent and threatened nursing home staff and paramedics with a cane, butcher knife, and shoehorn.

What’s in question at Taylor’s trial is whether he was acting recklessly when he shot Wrana with beanbag rounds, or whether he reasonably feared for his safety.

Taylor has been charged with felony reckless conduct. A bench trial before Cook County Associate Judge Luciano Panici was scheduled to begin Tuesday at the Markham Courthouse.

Taylor was surrounded by about two dozen police officers as he entered the courthouse Tuesday morning, including Robbins Police Chief Mitchell Davis.

Officers from Park Forest, Matteson, and Robbins occupied one side of the courtroom as a “show of force” to show support Taylor and the department, according to Davis. He said he worked most of his career in Park Forest, and though he did not work with Taylor, he knows him personally.

“It’s important to show up for the show of force, in that there’s an outcry now for less-lethal, as far as dealing with subjects, and he used less-lethal. It was a very tragic outcome, and there’s nothing good to say about that. No one wants to see someone pass away,” Davis said. “But they tried to do the best that they could as a police department to not use deadly force, and it was a tragic outcome.”

Davis said he doesn’t understand why Taylor is facing criminal charges. He said Taylor is being punished for doing the right thing.

“We’re taking a beating in the media, and as far as society is concerned all the way around right now. So when there’s somebody who does what everybody’s asking him to do – and, once again, it was a tragic outcome – now he’s being prosecuted for it,” Davis said. “So, now, what do you want officers to do now? Now it makes it so much more difficult as police officers for us to proceed at this point.”

Wrana family attorney Nicholas Grapsas has said police kept nursing home staff away – rather than ask for their help in talking to Wrana.

“When the police came, they took over. They wouldn’t even let the staff calm him down, even though they repeatedly, literally, begged them ‘Let us try and calm him down,” Grapsas said.

He claimed officers stormed into the room with riot gear, shooting Wrana with a stun gun. They then shot him in the abdomen with a bean bag round from a shotgun.

“Police reported top hospital staff, according to records we received that they tasered John, but ‘the Taser didn’t take,’ then proceeded to shoot John three times with bean bags in the abdomen and that John ‘was about five feet away’ at the time,” Graspas said.

Photo: Brian Jackson/Sun-Times Media



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