A south suburban police officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to reckless conduct in connection with the death of a senior citizen shot last year with a beanbag gun.
Park Forest Police Officer Craig Taylor, 43, is accused of striking 95-year-old John Wrana with five shotgun beanbag rounds as he and others tried taking the man into custody, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney's Office.
The shots caused internal abdominal bleeding that ultimately led to Wrana's death, prosecutors said.
“Police officers have very difficult jobs and they often must balance the use of force with the need for force,” State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a 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.”
The incident happened July 26, 2013, at the Victory Centre assisted living facility for senior citizens in Park Forest. Prosecutors said staff members called police after Wrana became combative with emergency medical technicians trying to take him to the hospital for medical treatment.
Wrana was in an agitated state, prosecutors said, and holding a long metal object that was later identified as a shoe horn. Wrana refused to cooperate with officers after several attempts to speak with him, and at one point Wrana grabbed a kitchen knife and yelled for the officers to leave.
Prosecutors said the officers ordered Wrana several times to drop the knife. When he didn't drop it, the commander on the scene deployed his Taser but its prongs failed to make contact.
As Wrana moved toward the officers, prosecutors said Taylor also ordered him to drop the knife. He then fired the beanbag rounds, striking Wrana in the torso from about six to eight feet away.
"The optimum distance when firing at a human target for this weapon according to training standards is a minimum of 15 feet and a maximum of 60 feet," prosecutors said.
Wrana was transferred to St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights and then to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn where doctors determined Wrana suffered an internal abdominal wound that needed surgery.
Wrana refused the surgery and died on July 27.
The next court date for Taylor, a police officer in Park Forest since 2004, is scheduled for June 9.