CHICAGO | A Park Forest police officer has been charged with reckless conduct for his behavior in July 2013 that resulted in the death of a 95-year-old former Glenwood man who was living at a senior citizen facility.
Craig Taylor, 43, who has been with the Park Forest Police Department for 10 years, appeared Wednesday at the Criminal Courts Building, where a judge allowed him to remain free without posting bond while the charge is pending.
Prosecutors said Taylor’s conduct during an incident involving John Wrana at the Victory Centre senior facility caused internal abdominal bleeding that ultimately led to his death. Taylor is scheduled to appear in court again April 23. The Cook County medical examiner ruled Wrana's death a homicide, according to The Associated Press.
The state’s attorney’s office recommended the individual recognizance bond for Taylor because he has no prior criminal record, although he is being required to surrender any firearms he owns while the case is pending.
Prosecutors said that on July 26 officials at the Victory Centre, where Wrana had lived for four months following many years as a Glenwood resident, called police because they said Wrana was combative with paramedics trying to transport him to a local hospital.
Police said they arrived to find Wrana in an agitated state, and he grabbed a knife at one point while telling police to leave. They eventually entered the apartment, armed with a shield, a Taser, a shotgun loaded with beanbag rounds and a pistol.
When Wrana continued to resist, a police commander tried using the Taser. When it did not work, the state’s attorney’s office said that Taylor ordered Wrana to drop the knife, then fired five rounds of beanbags that struck Wrana in the torso.
Wrana was transported to Franciscan St. James Health in Chicago Heights and then transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he refused surgery for internal bleeding. He died early the next day.
An investigation by a special investigations unit of the state’s attorney’s office found that Taylor was standing about 6 feet away from Wrana when he fired the beanbags. They say that use of such a weapon is supposed to be done at a minimum of 15 feet away from an individual, and no more than 60 feet.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, in a prepared statement, said, “Police officers have very difficult jobs and they often must balance the use of force with the need for force. 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 state’s attorney’s press office would not say Wednesday whether other police officers could face criminal charges related to Wrana’s death.
Park Forest police have said the officers acted as they did because they had no choice.
The Associated Press reports that Taylor's attorney did not immediately return a call for comment.
While Nicholas Grapsas, an attorney representing the Wrana family, said he believes other officers face some sort of civil liability for the incident, and he said that may be the basis of a legal action he is contemplating for the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Grapsas said the family is pleased that criminal charges resulted from the death of Wrana, who lived much of his adult life in Glenwood. He was an Army Air Corps veteran from World War II who fought in Burma, and Grapsas said he remained active in veterans issues, heading the Glenwood chapter of the Amvets organization for many years.
“It did take far too long for action to be taken,” said Grapsas of the criminal charge, while adding that he’s still seeking details for his own investigation of the incident.