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Police: Bean-bag gun in 95-year-old’s death not used in 10 years

John Wranwith his wife Helen this undated photo. | Submitted photo

John Wrana, with his wife, Helen, in this undated photo. | Submitted photo

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Park Forest police officers hadn’t fired the department’s bean-bag shotgun in a real-life scenario in 10 years — until using it in a controversial July 26 shooting in which a 95-year-old man died at the assisted-living center where he lived.

The medical examiner’s office ruled John Wrana’s death a homicide, and an autopsy showed he died from being shot in the stomach from the 12-gauge shotgun, which fires a small bag filled with lead shot that weighs about 1.4 ounces.

The incident began when Wrana, a distinguished U.S. Air Corps sergeant in World War II, threatened staff at Victory Centre of Park Forest and paramedics with a metal cane and a 2-foot-long metal shoehorn, according to police.

They said that when officers arrived, Wrana refused to drop the items and grabbed a 12-inch butcher knife, threatening police.

After officers were unable to subdue him with a stun gun, an officer shot Wrana with the bean-bag gun, police said.

Nicholas Grapsas, an attorney representing Wrana’s family, said his death was outrageous.

“There wasn’t one level-headed person to say, ‘hey, what are we doing and why are we doing this to a 95-year-old person?’ ” Grapsas said. “It begs a lot of questions.”

Deputy Police Chief Mike McNamara said the officer who shot the gun had fired it in training, but it had not been used on a call in more than 10 years. He said no officers have been suspended, pending the investigation of the shooting by the Illinois State Police public integrity unit.

Village manager Tom Mick called Wrana’s death a “tragic situation” but supported police.

“Our police officers have a tremendous track record in doing the right thing, and I support the officers involved in this case to the fullest extent possible,” Mick said.

The police department’s policy manual says shooting the bean-bag gun should be considered as a “use of force greater than the use of the police baton but lesser than deadly force ...”

An officer shooting the shotgun should take into consideration the target’s “physical factors,” including age, size, relative strength, skill level, injury/exhaustion and the number of police officers versus the subject, according to the manual.

It states that officers must complete an approved training course to use the gun and that a watch commander shall authorize the use of a bean-bag gun before it is used.

McNamara said the officer who shot Wrana had completed the training.

There is no certification process for using such a weapon, said James Marsh, owner of Galena-based forensic consulting service Marsh and Associates.
Marsh said despite Wrana’s age, he may have posed a physical threat to police with the knife.

“It doesn’t take much pressure to be cut in the arm or neck and bleed out,” Marsh said. “You can have a teenager who is 14 years old who can kill you as easily as a 40-year-old, 50-year-old, 60-year-old or, in this case, a 90-year-old.”

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