Updated 04/02/14 – 3:49 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A suburban police officer has been charged with reckless conduct, in the death of a 95-year-old World War II veteran who was shocked with a stun gun and shot with beanbag rounds at a Park Forest nursing home last year.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office confirmed Park Forest Police Officer Craig Taylor, 43, was charged with one count of reckless conduct in the death of John Wrana, who died following a confrontation with police at the Victory Centre nursing home on July 26, 2013.
Taylor, who has been a Park Forest police officer since 2004, was released on a personal recognizance bond after he appeared in court Wednesday afternoon.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said Wrana died from internal bleeding from blunt force trauma caused by the bean bag rounds. Cook County prosecutors said Wrana was struck five times with beanbag rounds fired from a shotgun.
Prosecutors said Taylor fired the beanbag rounds from a range of 6 to 8 feet, but the optimum firing distance for using such rounds is a minimum of 15 feet.
“Police officers have very difficult jobs and they often must balance the use of force with the need for force,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a written statement. “Given the other viable options to resolve the matter and the number of shots fired at this senior citizen at close range in rapid succession, we believe this officer’s conduct to be reckless.”
Terry Ekl, the attorney for Officer Taylor, tells WBBM he believes the officer’s actions in discharging the shotgun were “appropriate and consistent with a reasonable use of force.”
Prosecutors said staff at Victory Centre called police after Wrana became combative as emergency medical technicians were trying to take him to the hospital for medical treatment.
Wrana’s family has said there’s no doubt Park Forest police overreacted and used excessive force when they used a stun gun on him and shot him at close range with a shotgun loaded with beanbag rounds.
Park Forest Police have said Wrana was brandishing his cane as a weapon, and was armed with a 12-inch butcher knife, and that officers mistook the shoehorn for a machete.
However, an attorney for Wrana’s family denied he ever wielded a knife, and questioned why police needed to use force on an elderly man who needed a cane, when the nursing home staff offered to help calm him down.
Wrana family attorney Nicholas Graspas 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.
Grapsas said Wrana was sitting alone in a chair when police shot him.
His family insisted such force was unnecessary.
“Close the door, back out of the room and let him fall asleep. Probably an hour or so, he’d be dozing, out of it, problem solved,” said grandson Steve Manderson.
Administrators at Victory Centre have said they never had any problems with Wrana before.
No one else has been charged in the case.