On July 27 Park Forest, Illinois, police, armed with Tasers, a shotgun and flexible batons or “bean bag” rounds and a riot shield, shot John Wrana, a 95-year-old resident of an assisted living facility, eventually killing him. In the course of subduing the elderly man, police shocked Wrana with a Taser and fired “bean bag” rounds at his chest when he refused to be transported for medical treatment.
The paramedics transporting Wrana called the police when he refused to get into an ambulance. From that point on, two very different descriptions of the events to follow emerged: that written in the Park Forest police report, and that given to news radio WBBM and the Chicago Tribune by the lawyer for the Wrana family, Nicholas Grapsas.
Wrana, who relied on a walker or a cane, was reported to be uncooperative before police arrived, and on their arrival became increasingly combative. Police allege he threatened the facility’s staff and paramedics with a metal cane and a shoehorn, and eventually a large kitchen knife.
Workers at the Victory Centre of Park Forest assisted living facility were told by police to stay away from the room where Wrana and police were. Maria Oliva, an executive at the retirement home company told the Chicago Tribune, “The staff was not inside once the police were on the scene. At different times the staff were in there, but not when they were called. They (the police) were in charge at that point.”
Claiming that he refused to comply with verbal commands to drop the knife, police proceeded to shoot the 95-year-old man with a Taser. When this proved “ineffective”, police shot Warner multiple times in the chest with flexible baton “bean bag” rounds from a shotgun.
Grapsas was quoted in a Chicago Tribune editorial saying that the “beanbag” rounds were fired into Wrana's chest while he was seated in a chair. Victory Centre staff reportedly pleaded with police to let them help Wrana get into the ambulance.
According to Grapsas, there is no evidence to account for the existence of the “12-inch butcher type kitchen knife” police claimed Wrana threatened them with. Wrana’s family never saw a knife in his room on previous visits, nor did facility staff find knives or similar weapons on his possession previously.
The “bean bag” rounds used by police in the killing of Wrana consist of a fabric bag filled with lead shot. When fired from a shotgun at the chest, they have the power to push broken ribs into the heart and cause internal bleeding to the abdomen. Bean bag rounds pose a serious risk of death or injury when fired from less than 10 feet away.
It is also unclear how far police were from Wrana when opening fire, or how the initial use of a Taser on the 95-year-old man, another device whose use by police has resulted in a slew of fatal injuries, was inadequate to subdue him.
Wrana was still conscious when he was taken to St. James Hospital and Health Centers and the Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he died about two hours later at 2:30am from internal bleeding due to the bean bag rounds fired at him.
In a statement from July 29, the Park Forest police department said the assisted living facility where John Wrana lived followed state regulations and followed proper procedures in involving police when he resisted being transferred for treatment.
Area residents and family members of Wrana expressed outrage over the police killing. David Atkins, a former neighbor of Wrana’s at the assisted living facility, remarked that the police had other options at their disposal to disarm Wrana without resorting to the violent and fatal methods they ended up using: “If they were smart policemen, one could have got in the front of that man and one could have went through the back door and thrown a sheet over him, put him down and put the cuffs on him before they shot him.”
“I want answers,” said Wrana’s 74-year-old stepdaughter Sharon Mangerson. “I want someone held accountable.”
The application of excessive force on an elderly man in a nursing home by a swarm of police, leading to his inevitable death at the hands of law enforcement, is reprehensible. The claim that the use of multiple Tasings and blasts of bean bag rounds was justified in against a 95-year-old man to protect police and nursing home staff against an impending deadly threat, measures applied primarily against conditions of social unrest and riot control, holds no legitimacy.