State's attorney, someone, needs to take stand on WWII veteran's death

It's been more than a month since Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez received the Illinois State Police report on the killing of John Wrana.

The witnesses have been interviewed, the evidence examined, the autopsy report read again and again. And some five weeks later, still no answers for the public.

Many of you know the basic facts: In late July, Park Forest police used a Taser against the frail 95-year-old man, then fired beanbag rounds from a shotgun, causing internal injuries that killed him.

Someone has to stand for what happened to John Wrana.

Whether it's Park Forest police, or Alvarez, or Gov. Pat Quinn, whose administration controls the Illinois State Police, someone has to stand for it. Someone has to officially declare his death to be illegitimate and press charges, or say it was a justified shooting and take the heat.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Wrana, the feeble World War II veteran who needed a cane or a walker to stand, was just weeks shy of his 96th birthday when he died six months ago. Wrana was shot by police July 26 and died of his injuries early the next morning. There aren't any mystery witnesses. The authorities know who was there and presumably have had every opportunity to ask them what happened to John Wrana.

And still, nothing.

Alvarez's job is a thankless one in a jurisdiction plagued with violent crime. The caseloads are almost unbearable, the resources limited, the stream of new victims never-ending. The state's attorney is constantly — and sometimes irresponsibly — second-guessed. I understand that.

But she needs to make a decision.

It is possible that the state investigation will show that Park Forest police had a good reason for the force they used, leaving Alvarez the option of not filing charges. Or she could conduct her own investigation and decide whether to bring charges, drop the case or bring evidence before a Cook County grand jury. I don't know what's in the report. I haven't seen it. Authorities are keeping it under wraps.

But we talked to two lawyers experienced in cases involving police conduct, and both thought a charge of involuntary manslaughter might be considered.

One of those lawyers is Terry Ekl, a former prosecutor who won a huge case last year against Chicago's City Hall, the case of Karolina Obrycka, the North Side bartender beaten senseless by former police Officer Anthony Abbate.

Ekl said an involuntary manslaughter charge would be appropriate if, among other things, "the acts which result in death are done in a reckless fashion."

Jon Loevy, another prominent attorney who handles police abuse cases, pointed to a possible charge of involuntary manslaughter, and added, "At a minimum, battery comes to mind."

"This is just an absolutely ridiculous abuse of police power," Loevy said.

Loevy said police didn't do their job.

"They should have de-escalated the situation instead of using deadly force. I don't know if it's a failure in training, or if these guys just really screwed up," he said.

There is no mystery. Authorities know who fired the shots. We know who died. Witnesses have been interviewed. Statements taken. Why the delay?

We do know that on the evening of July 26, Wrana began suffering delusions at his home in the Victory Centre assisted living facility in Park Forest.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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