Testimony: Police used 'unreasonable' force in beanbag death

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Posted: Jan 14, 2015 9:41 PM
Testimony: Police used 'unreasonable' force in beanbag death

MARKHAM, Ill. (AP) — Suburban Chicago police who fired beanbag rounds at a knife-wielding 95-year-old man used "unreasonable and unnecessary" force, an expert on police tactics testified Wednesday at an officer's trial on a felony reckless conduct charge in the World War II veteran's death.

John Wrana died after refusing treatment when he was hit by beanbags from a shotgun fired by the Park Forest Officer Craig Taylor in July 2013.

Consultant Francis R. Murphy, a former police officer and Secret Service agent, testified that the incident at an assisted living center was an officer-created crisis.

"There was no threat until Officer Craig Taylor and the others confronted him," Murphy said.

Taylor was one of several officers dispatched to the facility where Wrana lived after a staff member reported that Wrana had become combative with emergency workers. Wrana was shot five times with a beanbag gun before he dropped the knife and cane he was wielding.

Murphy said the officers could have used their ballistic shield to protect themselves.

"Police officers had more than the ability using their shield not only to enter but to knock Wrana down," Murphy said.

But Murphy later conceded under questioning by defense attorney Terry Ekl that Wrana could have been seriously injured if officers used the shield to knock him to the floor.

Ekl noted later that Taylor's action didn't have to lead to Wrana's death.

"He went to the hospital. He would have lived, survived, if he agreed to surgery," Ekl said. "He refused to get it and said, 'I want to die.'"

Taylor, 43, could face up to three years in prison if he's convicted. His trial comes amid heightened scrutiny of the use of deadly force by U.S. police departments.