Kass: Cook County source says WWII vet shot 2 or more times with beanbag round

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Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass and Chicago Tribune reporter Jenniffer Weigel discuss the death of John Wrana. (Posted October 31, 2013)

How many times did Park Forest police blast 95-year-old John Wrana in the guts with a beanbag round fired from a riot shotgun?

Once? Twice? Three times?

A source in the Cook County medical examiner's office says the wounds suggest two or more rounds were fired at Wrana, a frail World War II veteran who had trouble standing, even with a cane.

"At least two (rounds) for sure," said the source from the medical examiner's office.

Actually, it could have been more than two rounds.

According to an outside forensic expert we contacted, there could have been as many as four beanbag rounds fired at the old man from police shotguns.

John Wrana was just weeks away from his 96th birthday when police opened fire in his room. Wrana died of internal bleeding from those wounds hours later.

His death was ruled a homicide. The Illinois State Police has not yet completed its report, which is expected to be forwarded to the Cook County state's attorney's office in the coming weeks.

I'm still having trouble understanding why police could rationalize even one blast to the abdomen of a very old man. But it seems clear there was more than one.

"The chest and abdomen have four different bruises," said Dr. Judy Melinek, a former medical examiner in San Francisco, after reviewing the medical examiner's report we sent to her.

The force of the beanbag shotgun rounds — traveling at 280 feet per second — perforated Wrana's small intestine, Dr. Melinek said.

The cut measured about 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches. More than a liter of his blood pooled in his abdomen, and he died.

"That's pretty big," she said of the cut in his intestine. "I'm not surprised that this happened. They're shotguns. … It is a pretty forceful impact. In this case it caused a laceration in the small intestine and the omentum, the fatty tissue that drapes the intestines. It's like a curtain."

As many of you remember from earlier columns, Wrana was living at the Victory Centre assisted living facility in south suburban Park Forest when, on the evening of July 26, he refused medical treatment for an illness.

His family, through its lawyer, believes he was suffering from a urinary tract infection, which doctors tell me can cause symptoms of dementia and paranoia in elderly men.

Paramedics called Park Forest police. Wrana was in an agitated, angry state, police said in a statement at the time.

Police said then that Wrana threatened staff and officers with a metal walking cane, then "an approximately 3-foot-long iron shoe horn," and finally, a 12-inch knife with a 7-inch blade. As many as seven officers were at the scene.

First police shot him with a Taser. But that wasn't enough.

So they opened fire with the shotgun, or shotguns.

Whether two, three or four rounds were fired, we don't know, but whatever the total was, it seems excessive.

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