Seven weeks after 95-year-old John Wrana died of internal bleeding after a confrontation with Park Forest police, his family and its attorney pressed investigators Monday for more answers and insisted that Wrana died from an excessive use of force by officers.
Wrana was a World War II veteran, well-liked and feisty, his stepdaughter and caretaker, Sharon Mangerson, 74, said at a news conference. He needed a walker but was too proud to use it, and was weeks shy of his 96th birthday, she said. Wrana was mentally sharp and loved women and gambling.
His family, she said, is heartsick at the way he died.
"It is painful to think that a man who had lived through so many things had to have been killed like that," Mangerson said. "Somebody has to be held accountable for what occurred with him."
According to a statement from Park Forest police shortly after the July 26 incident, officers were called to the Victory Centre assisted living facility at 8:42 p.m., when Wrana threatened staff and paramedics with a metal cane and a 2-foot metal shoehorn. They were trying to take him to a hospital to be treated for a urinary tract infection, which his family said had contributed to Wrana experiencing some confusion.
He ignored officer's demands to drop the cane and shoehorn, then armed himself with a 12-inch butcher-type knife, according to police. When he did not comply, an officer shot him with a Taser. When the Taser was "ineffective," according to police, he was shot in the abdomen with beanbag rounds from a shotgun.
He died at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn at 2:30 a.m.
Illinois State Police, which are conducting the investigation into Wrana's death, would not comment Monday on details of the incident beyond the initial statement.
"There are a lot of moving parts," said state police spokeswoman Monique Bond. "I can only say that our role in this is to provide our analysis based on forensics, the crime scene, witness statements and all of those facts."
The family's attorney, Nicholas Grapsas, said he conducted his own investigation by talking with staff members at the assisted living facility, police and doctors who treated Wrana.
"Even if there is a knife," Grapsas said, "I believe excessive force was used."
When police arrived, he said, staff trained to calm patients were kept away from Wrana despite their pleas to intervene. Officers could have allowed staff members to defuse the situation or simply shut the door of his room and let him cool down, according to Grapsas.
According to Grapsas, the beanbag shotgun had not been fired in a real-life scenario in 10 years. It shoots beanbags at 300 feet per second, he said. The beanbags were fired at Wrana from about 5 feet instead of the recommended 15 feet, he added.
"What policy or procedure allows a beanbag to be shot 5 feet from anybody?" Grapsas said. "When is it considered less than lethal in the case of a 96-year-old man?"
Mangerson, Wrana's stepdaughter, and Grapsas hope to pressure police to release information about the incident and take steps to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
"We wanted to believe (the investigation) would be held in a comprehensive and expedited manner," Grapsas said. "Seven weeks later, we are less optimistic."
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