Family seeks accountability in WWII vet’s death
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org June 23, 2014 5:21PM
Updated: July 25, 2014 6:20AM
Sharon Mangerson grimaced and closed her eyes as her attorney described the events leading up to the death of her elderly stepfather nearly a year ago.
“It’s been a very painful process to relive this,” she said at a news conference Monday.
John Wrana died from injuries suffered when a Park Forest police officer fired a shotgun loaded with bean bag cartridges at him. Mangerson and other family members filed a federal lawsuit last week against the officer and other police involved in the shooting.
“I want somebody to be accountable,” she said. “The elderly people in this country are not treated too well.”
The death of the 95-year-old World War II veteran was ruled a homicide, and the officer who fired the gun, Craig Taylor, was charged earlier this year with felony misconduct.
Five officers were dispatched to the Victory Centre of Park Forest, an assisted living center where Wrana was living, last July 26 after Wrana refused to be taken by ambulance to a hospital for treatment of what the center staff believed was a urinary tract infection.
Police said that Wrana brandished a knife, as well as a long shoehorn that was mistaken for a machete.
Nicholas Grapsas, who is representing Wrana’s family in the lawsuit, said he talked with Victory Centre staff after the incident and none recalled seeing such a knife in Wrana’s room.
Jim Sotos, an attorney representing the village and officers, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said it does not acknowledge that Wrana was armed with a foot-long knife or “the danger the officers were placed in.”
Once Wrana came toward them with the blade, the officers were legally justified in using lethal force, Sotos said.
Grapsas said that Wrana “had committed no crime” by refusing to go to the hospital, and the officers’ reactions “defy reasonable and proper standard police practices.”
Grapsas said that the ailment Wrana was suffering had caused his behavior to become erratic, but was not a threat to officers.
He said Taylor fired five beanbag rounds at Wrana, hitting him in the chest, stomach and arm, then a police commander, Michael Baugh, used a riot shield to push the elderly man to the floor. Grapsas said Wrana, who was then handcuffed, was in “excruciating and unbearable pain.”
Wrana was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was told the injuries he’d suffered were fatal, Grapsas said.
Wrana was “conscious and alert and knew he was dying,” the attorney said.
Mangerson said the actions of the officers are “beyond comprehension,” and that her stepfather “did not deserve to be treated in that respect.”
She said it has “been very, very hard” for her and her family, including her six children and 16 grandchildren, for whom “this is the only grandpa they ever knew.”
Mangerson said that once the lawsuit is resolved, she is “hoping all of the good memories (about her stepfather) come forth.”
“We’ll get beyond this,” she said.