MARKHAM, Ill. (CBS) — A Park Forest police officer has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in connection with the death of a 95-year-old man at a suburban senior facility last year.
Craig Taylor, 43, was charged with one count of reckless conduct in the death of World War II veteran John Wrana at the Victory Centre nursing home in Park Forest last July.
Taylor, who is on administrative leave from the Park Forest Police Department, declined comment Tuesday morning after he pleaded not guilty at an arraignment hearing at the Markham Courthouse.
Prosecutors said Taylor shot Wrana with a beanbag gun in an attempt to subdue Wrana after he became combative while emergency medical technicians were trying to take him to the hospital for medical treatment. Taylor allegedly 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 also used a stun gun on Wrana, whose family has said there is no doubt officers used excessive force.
“To say this is horrific is an understatement,” said Wrana family attorney Nicholas Graspas. “With respect to who’s liable, both the individual officers are liable, as well as the village of Park Forest.”
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.
Taylor’s attorney said perceptions aren’t always what they seem.
“He’s being charged with a crime, and if a mistake was made, an error in judgment was made, that’ snot the same thing as a criminal act,” defense attorney Terry Ekl said.
Sharon Mangerson, Wrana’s stepdaughter, cared for him for 11 years. She said she can’t imagine why a police officer would have to resort to what turned out to be lethal force.
“How threatening could a 95 (year-old) – gonna be 96 in a couple weeks – be to four or five healthy men? Police officers? I mean, I don’t understand,” she said.”
Police have said Wrana brandished a knife and a two-foot shoehorn that some officers mistook for a machete during the confrontation.
Ekl said the family is considering filing a lawsuit against Taylor and the village of Park Forest.