Review of police beanbag shooting taking too long

It's been 5 months since police fatally shot WWII veteran, and his family deserves answers

It's been about five months since police shot 95-year-old John Wrana down, with multiple shotgun beanbag rounds to the stomach, after they tased him in the nursing home.

But so far, no findings. No charges. And no one held accountable.

There hasn't even been an official call to the family of the frail World War II vet who was shot in his Park Forest assisted living facility and died hours later, just weeks shy of his 96th birthday. Nothing.

"What bothers me is that there's been nothing," Wrana's stepdaughter, Sharon Mangerson, told me late last week.

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"Where's the urgency to find out what happened to him?" she asked. "All these months and they can't make a determination? If he were politically important, if he was a somebody, you think they'd find out sooner? But he was just a regular man, a Joe Schmo like all the rest of us."

Illinois State Police officials are investigating the police shooting of Wrana, the old man I've been writing about since this happened in July. An official said they expect to present their findings to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez "in the coming weeks."

Mangerson asked me: "Who's in charge of the State Police? Who's the big boss over all of them?"

Ultimately, the big boss is Gov. Pat Quinn, I told her.

"The governor? Should I call him? If I did, I wouldn't get through," she said. "Or I'd get the runaround. Don't these officials have families? ... One of my nephews asked, what are the names of the police officers who did this to grandpa? I had to tell him I don't know."

There are excellent investigators at the Illinois State Police, and I'm sure the public integrity unit is swamped with work. And some investigations take longer than others.

But I can't shake the feeling that since the Wrana homicide has become a political heater case, that political hands might take over, and that the findings could be released on Christmas Eve, or maybe at 4:45 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

This is what political Illinois does to bad news.

Mangerson is worried that there will be no fault found, that prosecutors will say there's really no hard evidence. And that officials will say Wrana's death was an unfortunate series of events, and that any cop would have reacted the same.

Here's what we do know. On the evening of July 26, at the Victory Centre assisted living facility, John Wrana, who needed a cane or a walker to stand, resisted being taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of a urinary tract infection, which sometimes causes symptoms of paranoia.

Shortly after the killing, Park Forest police issued an artfully worded statement, saying Wrana threatened staff and paramedics by brandishing a 2-foot-long metal shoehorn, a metal cane and even a knife.

After they tased him, he was shot with "less-lethal beanbag rounds," according to the statement. The old man bled to death internally.

In November, I quoted an outside forensics expert, Dr. Judy Melinek, of San Francisco. After studying the autopsy report, she said Wrana may have been hit by as many as four rounds.

An old man who couldn't stand without help was first tased, then shot multiple times, as many as four times. Those rounds travel at 280 feet per second, or 190 miles per hour. They can knock a large, strong man to the ground.

On Friday, Mangerson told me something I hadn't known before.

"He loved to play craps," Mangerson said. "I took him to the casino. And that day he was winning. I mean, really winning. But he had to stop. You know why? Because his hands were so bad that when he'd toss the dice they'd fly all over, 'cause he couldn't hold them very well."