Park Forest Cop Acquitted in Fatal Beanbag Shooting of WWII Vet

Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune, February 4, 2015

Park Forest police Officer Craig Taylor was acquitted Wednesday of reckless conduct for firing five beanbag rounds in rapid succession at a knife-wielding World War II veteran who died hours later.

Reading his lengthy written ruling aloud in court, Cook County Associate Judge Luciano Panici said the force used on John Wrana Jr., 95, “was not excessive.”

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After the court hearing, Taylor smiled, stood and embraced his wife. He had faced anywhere from probation up to three years in prison if convicted.

Craig Taylor

Craig Taylor

Relatives of Wrana’s family sobbed in the front row of the courtroom gallery and were escorted out the back of the courtroom. They left the courthouse without comment.

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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 by Wrana’s family. {snip}

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Taylor, 44, fired the beanbag rounds after Wrana struck a paramedic with a cane and refused police orders to drop a filleting knife in July 2013 at the Victory Centre complex. Wrana died at a hospital hours later of internal bleeding.

John Wrana

John Wrana

Prosecutors argued at trial that Taylor–a 10-year veteran of the force–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.

Taylor fired beanbag rounds from a shotgun from a much closer range than called for during training, prosecutors said.

But 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.

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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 home, 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 five 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 round.

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

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