CHICAGO (CBS) — Prosecutors said a Park Forest police officer went too far two years ago when he shot a combative 95-year-old man with multiple bean bag rounds at a Park Forest nursing home, but the officer’s lawyer accused prosecutors of playing “Monday morning quarterback.”
Park Forest Police Officer Craig Taylor has been charged with a single count of reckless conduct in the death of World War II veteran John Wrana. Taylor’s bench trial in south suburban Markham got underway on Tuesday.
In opening statements, a prosecutor said Taylor was unjustified and unreasonable in using a shotgun to fire five beanbag rounds at Wrana.
Prosecutors have acknowledged Wrana was belligerent and irrational as he waved around a knife, cane, and long metal shoehorn after police officers arrived at the nursing home where he lived, in an effort to help paramedics take him to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. However, they said police were armed with firearms, stun guns, a ballistic shield, common sense, and training in subduing subjects.
The prosecution said the evidence would show Taylor went too far when he shot Wrana in the torso with multiple beanbag rounds fired from a shotgun, causing fatal internal bleeding.
Taylor’s lawyer, Terry Ekl, said the case is about the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. He said Wrana repeatedly threatened to kill everyone in the nursing home.
When a police stun gun misfired, Taylor fired five bean bag rounds before Wrana dropped the knife.
Ekl said Wrana was no invalid, but a spry and active 95, and posed a threat that was dealt with by the book. He also said, had Wrana and his family not refused surgery later in the day, he probably would not have died from his injuries.
About two dozen police officers attended the first day of Taylor’s bench trial, as a show of support for their colleague.
Robbins Police Chief Mitchell Davis 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.”
In addition to the criminal case, Wrana’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Taylor, other officers, and Park Forest.