Family members are questioning the death of a 95-year-old WWII U.S. Air Corps sergeant who killed by cops at an assisted living center last month after resisting medical treatment.
John Wrana died from injuries sustained in an incident, which was later ruled as a homicide by the medical examiner, by Park Forest police on July 27. Police were called to Victory Centre, according to the Chicago Tribune, when it was reported by faculty that he was being “combative,” resisting medical treatment to which he was being “involuntarily” committed to.
A press release from the police department emailed to the Chicago Tribune stated that Wrana was threatening staff and paramedics with his metal cane and a 2-foot shoehorn. The report states he later picked up a 12-inch knife.
The Tribune reported that police ordered the man to surrender, but his failure to do so and continued threats resulted in them using a Taser on him and then shooting him with small bean bags. Wrana dropped the knife and was taken to the hospital at this point.
Wrana was conscious when he arrived at a local hospital but died in the early morning hours. The Southtown Star reported the Cook County medical examiner’s office conducting an autopsy that found Wrana died from being shot in the stomach with the 12-gauge shotgun with bean-bag ammo.
The family now has an attorney looking into the case.
“This was a literal war hero,” attorney Nicholas Grapsas told the Southtown Star, noting that the family has not yet decided if it will file a lawsuit. “It’s outright insulting when you have such lack of respect for someone who served our country to the extent he did.”
According to Grapsas, staff and family who were at the assisted-living center at the time of the incident said they didn’t see Wrana pick up a knife. They also noted that he was sitting a chair during the altercation, meaning they believe such a show of force from authorities might not have been warranted.
The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass reported Maria Oliva with Pathway Senior Living, which runs the assisted-living center, saying staff was not in the room after police arrived to subdue Wrana. This, Kass said, shows “there was no imminent threat to staff” at the time Wrana would have picked up the alleged knife.
Kass also reported that after police barred staff from the room, workers expressed how they wished to re-enter to try and calm Wrana again. They were refused.
“At some point, I’m told there were between five and seven police officers, they went back to the room with a riot shield in hand, entered the door and shot him with a shotgun that contained bean-bag rounds,” Grapsas said of the situation according to Kass.
With police saying one thing and the family’s attorney presenting other information to the case, Kass reported veteran cops stating they believe unnecessary force was used.
“I’ve never met a police officer who couldn’t handle a 95-year-old man in a walker. And John Wrana wasn’t Jason Bourne. He was an old war veteran who didn’t want to be pushed around,” Kass wrote.
Wrana’s step-daughter Sharon Mangerson described Wrana as a “very vital 95-year-old” and “as independent as they come,” but she didn’t think he was dangerous.
Still, Kass reported a senior police official, who too thought at first the tactics used by police in this instance might have been excessive, saying that we don’t know exactly what law enforcement was faced with in the moment they made these decisions.
“If you don’t have all of the facts, it’s hard to judge someone. … Anyone can be dangerous,” Kass reported the official saying.
Watch this Chicago Tribune video with Kass talking about the case: