Park Forest police officer Craig Taylor, accused of bean-bagging an irate, confused, knife-wielding 95-year-old man to death in his nursing home, has been found not guilty of reckless conduct charges.
“There was nothing criminal about his actions,” said Cook County Associate Judge Luciano Panici in his ruling Wednesday.
Taylor, 43, bowed his head, then hugged his wife. Both were in tears. Wrana’s family also wept and embraced as the verdict was announced. The Associated Press reports that the courtroom was filled with Taylor’s fellow officers.
Taylor was charged with reckless conduct in John Wrana Jr.’s death. Wrana, a World War II veteran, was refusing to leave his room at the Victory Centre for Assisted Living for a trip to a hospital when Taylor and four other Park Forest police officers confronted him. They were wearing protective vests and shields. Taylor shot Wrana, who was waving a knife and a cane, with five beanbag rounds. Wrana died of internal bleeding due to injuries he suffered when the beanbags struck the old man in the abdomen.
An Illinois State Police investigation determined that Wrana, who couldn’t get around without the aid of a cane or walker, was Tasered and then shot with beanbag rounds five times at close range as police rushed him behind a riot shield. Wrana was wielding a cane, a small knife and a 2-foot-long shoehorn. Wrana died the next day at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez decried the ruling, calling Taylor’s actions “reckless,” reports Tribune Media.
“I really think other actions could have been taken and more restraint shown,” Alvarez said.
Taylor would have faced up to three years in prison had he been convicted. He still faces a multimillion-dollar wrongful-death lawsuit by Wrana’s family. He’s been on desk duty since the charges were filed. His lawyer told reporters he would return to patrol soon.