Mayor requests patience in Wis. motorcycle shop shooting

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Charges expected soon as police identify Neenah gunman.

NEENAH, Wis. A 60-year-old Wisconsin man who was fatally shot during a police standoff at a motorcycle shop was a hostage attempting to escape the shooter, a lawyer representing the man’s family tells PEOPLE.Three Neenah police officers were placed on administrative leave as of Sunday morning after a shooting involving officers the preceding morning, Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert told Post-Crescent Media on Monday.Police say Flatoff is the man who entered Eagle Nation Cycles, a downtown Neenah motorcycle shop, Saturday morning and then held others in the shop hostage.

Kaufert asked for patience as the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation looks into the fatal shooting, saying that he has not received a lot of information from that agency. “I’m hoping very soon they can release some of this information that will give people a better picture of what went on,” he said. “But it’s totally out of our hands at this point.” Just before 9 a.m. White, the attorney representing Funk’s family, says Funk had previously filed a $50 million lawsuit against the police and the city over a 2012 raid at the motorcycle shop. “It is a sad situation because Mike was terrified of law enforcement after what happened in 2012,” says White. “He was petrified that they were going to do something to hurt him again.

And a hostage, 60-year-old Michael Funk, known as “ML” died after police say he came out of the building with a gun and didn’t comply with officers demands to put down the gun. The gunman had sold his bike but wanted it back and took the buyer to Eagle Nation to retrieve it, White said, providing a glimpse into what sparked the hourslong hostage standoff. Funk’s partner Steven Erato told reporters he was in the basement of the shop Saturday when a gunman came in demanding a motorcycle he had previously sold to someone else.

Authorities haven’t said whom they suspect of shooting at them from inside the business in Neenah, about 100 miles northwest of Milwaukee, nor have they said who was killed outside a short time later. The search warrant claimed “the facility was being used in a complex drug manufacturing and distribution operation in conjunction with the Hells Lovers motorcycle gang and suggested activities and persons in the facility as if it were an episode of the television series, ‘Sons of Anarchy,'” according to the lawsuit.

According to Erato, as he walked upstairs from the basement, his longtime friend Mike “ML” Funk warned him of the confrontation. “I could see a guy whose back was facing me and I could see they were talking and ML was just at his computer desk and he looked at me and went like this, like go back downstairs,” said Erato about Funk’s actions as he walked upstairs. Mason-Funk said she doesn’t know what happened when her husband encountered police. “There’s only one person who can really tell me, and he can’t tell me,” she said. “That’s ML.” She said Neenah police knew Funk had a concealed carry permit. There had been gunfire by his head so he probably couldn’t hear what the police were saying to him.” Adding: “I don’t believe he was using or holding the weapon in any way that could have been construed as threatening to law enforcement,” says White. “I don’t believe he would have done anything that would have given the police a legitimate reason to be fearful of him. Winnebago County Deputy District Attorney Scott Ceman said Monday the man arrested following the standoff was in jail on suspicion of reckless endangerment for something that happened before he went into Eagle Nation. Flatoff is being held in the Winnebago Jail on a unrelated charge of recklessly endangering safety with a firearm for an incident that occurred prior to the hostage standoff.

He said police expected to find a drug distribution ring, but uncovered only a small amount of pot. “Police have tried to paint Eagle Nation as a gang, but that’s not the case,” White said, adding that the business often functions as a community center. Schwartz, director of communications and public affairs with the DOJ. “I just don’t have a time estimate for you on how long it will take.” Monday evening, Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson said in an email to media that there is not a lot more he can say right now. Attorneys representing Winnebago County parties moved to dismiss the lawsuit last week after the plaintiffs — including Erato and Funk — failed to show up for a scheduled deposition.

According to a probable cause statement obtained by PEOPLE, Flatoff was “very drunk and fell several times” the night before the hostage takedown. “Victim told defendant to lay down or she would call 911,” the report states. He said Funk’s family isn’t interested in making a statement at this time, but that they’re concerned about the officers’ actions and are considering their next steps. During the raid, Funk suffered back injuries and psychological trauma, he says. “The police held him in that raid, which ultimately resulted in no charges against him,” says White. “They didn’t find any evidence of the crimes they alleged. In 2011, Funk was charged in Winnebago County Circuit Court with physical abuse of a child, as a party to a crime, in connection with the beating of a 17-year-old boy at the business, but the charge was dismissed, according to online court records. He had been held hostage for almost an hour with a guy pointing a gun at him, telling him he’s going to kill him.” The Neenah Police Department has yet to release any new information with regard to Saturday’s incident.

A finding of probable cause allows authorities to continue to hold Flatoff for a reasonable amount of time before charges are brought against him, Ceman said. Precisely how often fatal police shootings occur in Wisconsin is starting to become clearer under the new investigation policies and greater public attention. Alison Dirr: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, or alison,dirr@gannettwisconsin.com; on Twitter @AlisonDirr; Gannett Wisconsin Media reporter Keegan Kyle and Post-Crescent Media reporters Jen Zettel and Ethan Safran contributed to this report.

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