Family of WWII vet killed by beanbag gun files suit
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter June 20, 2014 2:56PM
Sharon Mangerson, step-daughter of John Wrana, in Glenwood on April 8, 2014, questions the use of force by police in detaining her stepfather. | Jim Karczewski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2014 6:10AM
The family of a World War II veteran who was fatally shot with a beanbag gun by a Park Forest cop has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, saying the 95-year-old was “not a threat to anyone.”
Relatives of John Wrana filed the $5 million lawsuit against six police officers and the Village of Park Forest in federal court Friday, alleging the officers should have known Wrana would be seriously injured or killed by the 190 mph beanbag round, which was fired at close range during a stand off at an assisted-living center.
Wrana’s death last year prompted widespread outrage which eventually in April led to criminal charges of felony misconduct being filed in Cook County Circuit Court against the officer who pulled the trigger, Craig Taylor, 43.
But the federal lawsuit filed Friday also blames five other officers, including Commander Michael Baugh, who allegedly ordered the beanbag round be fired from a shotgun in an attempt to subdue Wrana, and Chief Clifford Butz, who’s accused of failing to properly train his men.
It says Park Forest’s use of force policy directly led to the tragedy.
Taylor, Baugh and three other officers were called to the Victory Centre of Park Forest Assisted Living Center on July 26 last year after Wrana refused medical treatment for what the center staff believed was a urinary tract infection.
The situation rapidly deteriorated after Wrana turned violent, brandishing at paramedics a knife and a long shoehorn that was mistaken for a machete, according to police.
But instead of waiting outside Wrana’s room for him to fall asleep or making a less violent intervention, the officers burst into Wrana’s room, the lawsuit states.
And when a Taser fired by Baugh missed, Taylor fired the beanbag round from less than 15 feet away, in violation of the manufacturer’s instructions, the suit alleges, accusing the cops of acting “wilfully, wantonly, intentionally, knowingly, maliciously, in bad faith and with deliberate disregard.”
Attorney Jim Sotos, who is representing Park Forest and all six officers, accused Wrana’s family and the media of “Monday morning quarterbacking” the decisions made by officers.
The “frivolous” lawsuit does not acknowledge that Wrana was armed with a foot-long knife or “the danger the officers were placed in,” he said.
Calling Wrana’s death an “undeniable tragedy,” he said the officers could not have waited out Wrana because he had threatened to come out of his room an throw a knife at them.
Once Wrana came towards them with the blade, the officers were legally justified in using lethal force, Sotos said, suggesting Wrana might have lived if his family had allowed him to undergo surgery after the incident.
Nicholas Grapsas, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of Wrana’s stepdaughter, Sharon Mangerson, and other relatives, said Mangerson “wants accountability” and policies put in place to prevent future tragedies.
“This was ‘Keystone Cops’ with dangerous toys,” he said.