Trial nears end for Chicago-area policeman charged in death of 95-year-old man
Judge giving a verdict (Shutterstock)

A judge on Friday could decide the fate of a Chicago-area police officer charged in the death of a 95-year-old man who was shot with beanbag cartridges after he allegedly threatened people with a knife.

Craig Taylor, 44, an officer in the suburb of Park Forest, was charged with reckless conduct causing great bodily harm in the 2013 death of John Wrana, Jr., a World War Two veteran.

Taylor faces up to three years' imprisonment if convicted on the felony charge.

Police said Wrana, who was at an assisted living center, had been brandishing a knife. An Illinois State Police investigator has testified there was no evidence Taylor acted unreasonably or recklessly, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Wrana's family, who has sued the Park Forest police in federal court, has said Wrana had not been a threat to anyone and was simply refusing to be taken to a hospital. The lawsuit said the center's staff believed Wrana was suffering from symptoms of a possible urinary tract infection, including a sudden onset of strange behavior.

A spokesman for the Cook County State's Attorney's office said the criminal case, which will go to Cook County Circuit Court Judge Luciano Panici, would likely conclude on Friday.

The case comes at a time of increased national scrutiny of police use of force. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York led to nationwide protests.

In both those cases, the police officers involved, who are white, were not charged in the deaths of unarmed black men. In the Wrana case, the officer is black and the victim was white.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Zielinska; Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Peter Cooney)