A judge ruled Wednesday that a Park Forest, Ill., officer would not be held criminally responsible for firing beanbag rounds at a knife-wielding World War II veteran, reports the Chicago Tribune.
In reaching the decision, the Tribune says Illinois’ Cook County Associate Judge Luciano Panici used words like “fearing for his life” and “reasonable use of force” while addressing the single felony count of reckless conduct against Park Forest police officer Craig Taylor. For his part, the officer insisted that he had acted out of fear for his life and the lives of the five other officers with him, the report notes.
The incident occurred on evening in July 2013 after John Wrana Jr. holed up in his room at the Victory Centre assisted living facility in the south Chicago suburb and threatened to kill the police, the Tribune reports:
They said he had a knife [.] And five cops with all that equipment couldn’t disarm a 95-year-old man. They fired a Taser, but that didn’t work. They rushed him. Wrana moved forward, according to investigators for the state police, and that’s when Taylor began firing the shotgun.
According to state investigative reports of the shooting, Taylor fired and fired and fired at close range. The beanbag rounds travel at speeds of about 190 miles an hour. The rounds tore Wrana up. He bled to death internally.
The acquittal marked a dramatic departure from other police-involved shootings grabbing headlines in recent months: The officer is man of color and the victim was a 95-year-old White man.
Reports the Tribune:
The case against Taylor unfolded amid national scrutiny on police use-of-force tactics sparked by the high-profile deaths of two unarmed black men in Missouri and New York. While lacking the racial element of those controversial cases, Taylor’s trial focused on a similar theme: When should an officer’s use of force be considered excessive?
In his ruling, Panici said the legal answer to that question requires thinking about the use of force “from the perspective of the officer, not the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”
Noting that Taylor’s commander—who was not charged—had come up with the plan to have Taylor shoot beanbag rounds from a shotgun if Wrana continued to disobey commands, Panici said Taylor’s decision to fire five shots in rapid succession was “not excessive.”
The Wrana family had no comment on the verdict, the Tribune reports.