Chicago Suburban Cop Awaiting Verdict On Felony Reckless Conduct
Park Forest, Illinois Officer Craig Taylor is charged with felony reckless conduct for the July 2013 death of 95- year old, World War II veteran John Wrana. John was a resident of the Victory Centre senior assisted living facility.
44-year old Craig Taylor is an 11-year veteran patrol officer. On July 26, 2013, a staff member reported that John was combative with emergency workers trying to care for him. Taylor was one of five officers dispatched. Mercury News reports;
“According to court documents, when the officers entered his room they saw Wrana holding a long metal object that officers believed was a knife or machete, but was actually a shoe horn. Wrana did pick up a knife and threaten the officers with it, and he refused their orders to drop it.”
Prosecutors say that Taylor fired bean bags at John 5 times, hitting him in the abdomen and the hand in which John was holding the knife.
Training standards state that bean bag shoots have an optimum distance of 15 to 60 feet. All of the shots fired by Taylor were no more than 8 feet away. Prosecutors say that Taylor fired 5 beanbags in rapid succession into John’s abdomen from 6 to 8 feet away. John died from internal bleeding.
Taylor went through a bench trial. There is no jury and the judge decides the verdict. Taylor’s trial lasted 4 days, and was presided over by Judge Luciano Panici, who will render his verdict on the reckless conduct charge on Friday.
The days events included that police officers had gone into John’s room twice. They retreated because John threatened them first with a long red-handled shoehorn and his black metal cane, later with a filet knife with a 7-inch blade.
Taylor testified that he was in fear for his life when John resisted attempts to take him to a hospital by shouting obscenities and brandishing a filet knife and cane.
Cmdr. Michael Baugh arrived at the scene with a black metal ballistics shield along with Taylor, whom Baugh had instructed to bring the “less-lethal” shotgun — a Mossberg 12-gauge colored orange as a warning to officers to use only beanbag rounds. Baugh instructed Cpl. Lloyd Elliot to form a single-file line to enter Wrana’s home with Baugh in the lead carrying the shield and Taser.
According to testimony, Cpl. Lloyd Elliot was behind Taylor, with his handgun drawn, ready to open fire if the bean bag blasts did not cause John to drop the knife.
The prosecutor argued that the group included two officers who were in excess of 6 feet tall and another one who weighed more than 300 pounds, that she said was a ridiculously mismatched force mustered against Wrana, who stood 5-foot-5 and weighed 160 pounds.
Taylor was one of five officers called to the senior complex, but he was the only person charged.
State’s Attorney Regina Mescall prosecuted the case, and got into arguments with Taylor’s defense attorney who complained that Mescall’s line of questioning about John being a WWII veteran was “nothing but an attempt to create more sympathy for Mr. Wrana.”
The prosecution’s case rested heavily on Francis Murphy, a former U.S. Secret Service supervisor who testified the officers had other options and escalated the confrontation by storming Wrana’s room instead of giving him time to cool off. The defense called Steven Ijames, a national expert on the use of less-lethal force who said the officers used admirable restraint.
According to reporter John Kass of the Chicago Tribune, the Park Forest police department has photos of John Wrana’s last hours, showing the old man’s bloody hands handcuffed behind him in a hard chair in his apartment at his assisted-living center.
In July 2014, the Wrana’s family filed a $5 million lawsuit against Taylor, the other officers involved and the village of Park Forest.
The Young Turks report;
FEBRUARY 4, 2015 UPDATE
ABC News reports that Cook County Judge Luciano Panici has acquitted Taylor. Judge Panici said there was nothing criminal about Taylor’s actions and that the officer did “what he was trained to do.”