Trial begins for officer charged in beanbag shooting death of John Wrana, 95

MARKHAM, Ill. (WLS) -- A Park Forest police officer is on trial for shooting and killing a World War II veteran with a beanbag gun. Officer Craig Taylor is accused of acting recklessly in that 2013 incident that killed John Wrana at an assisted living facility.

Officers from several different south suburban police departments showed their support as they escorted Park Forest Officer Craig Taylor to his trial on Tuesday.

Taylor, 44, is criminally charged for firing five beanbag rounds into 95-year-old John Wrana. The World War II veteran later died, after Taylor's attorney says Wrana refused medical care at the hospital.

"It was a tragic outcome, but to be criminally charged for it, I don't understand that," said Robbins Police Chief Mitchell Davis.

"The Park Forest Police Department and all police departments feel very strongly in this case that this prosecution is not justified and should never have happened," said Terry Ekl, Taylor's attorney.

On July 26, 2013, police were called to the Victory Centre Retirement Home in Park Forest, where Wrana was a resident. Prosecutors say he became violent with staff, paramedics and later police when Wrana refused to leave his studio apartment to get treated for a medical condition.

Armed with a cane, a long shoe horn and eventually a knife, Park Forest officers say Wrana ignored repeated requests to drop the knife. Officer Mitchell Green testified that Wrana threatened to cut him and other officers with the weapon.

"Only after you hear all the facts and evidence, can an informed decision whether officer Taylor acted reasonably that day," Ekl said.

But prosecutors say Taylor's actions were reckless. He and his commander were the fourth and fifth officers to arrive. After a Taser didn't work, Taylor used his rifle to shoot Wrana five times at a relatively close range with 190 mile-per-hour beanbag projectiles. Prosecutors say one was so strong it blew the skin off of Wrana's hand.

"I'm a big believer and true supporter of the police, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. This is excessive force and it should be stopped," said Guy Thomas, a supporter of John Wrana.

The bench trial is expected to last the rest of the week. If Taylor is found guilty, he could face probation or one to three years in prison.

The 43-year-old officer with beanbags at close range in 2013 at the assisted living facility where Wrana lived after Wrana confronted officers with a knife and cane.

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