The Neenah, Wisconsin Police Department and Neenah Swat officer Craig Hoffer had multiple motives to murder Eagle Nation Cycles co-owner Michael L. Funk last December 5. A cogent source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he also fears being murdered by Neenah police, alleges that video evidence connected to both Funk’s homicide and a September 21, 2012 Swat raid on Eagle Nation has been altered or destroyed.
Funk was killed near the conclusion of a bizarre standoff at the motorcycle shop. A deranged former customer named Brian T. Flatoff entered the shop armed with a MAC-10 semiautomatic pistol at about 8:55 a.m. and threatened to kill everyone in the shop unless his former motorcycle, being serviced for its new owner, was reassembled and returned to him.
Flatoff later said he had sold the motorcycle to a man named Vance Dalton for $3,000 to pay a bondsmen after his sixth drunk driving charge. Flatoff then tried to buy it back from Dalton who demanded $8,000 for it.
Neenah police did not arrive on scene and attempt to enter the shop until 9:43 a.m.. Before their arrival, those police had been told that everybody except Flatoff was dressed in all black so the gunman should have been easy to identify.
Most of the drama, including what happened inside the shop, was captured on Eagle Cycles 19 video cameras and multiple police video cameras including police body cameras. One video recording of Funk’s murder was released by Neenah police last week, about five months after the event. That video shows five Neenah Swat officers entering the back door of the motorcycle shop. Unreleased video taken inside the shop shows that two of the Swat officers fell down when they entered the building. Three officers, including Hoffer, engaged Flatoff at close range. The police fired multiple shots, fatally wounding a fire extinguisher then ran back out the door. Hoffer was struck in his helmet, ran to a nearby ambulance, stripped off his Swat gear then ran back to the crime scene.
It seems relevant that Hoffer who had just been shot in the helmet by Flatoff would have known who Flatoff was and that the man he shot and killed was not Flatoff.
Flatoff ordered Funk to close the door. When Funk reached the back door he kept going. After Flatoff fired multiple shots at him, Funk took cover behind a truck and, with no police in sight, he pulled out a legally carried pistol to protect himself should Flatoff pursue him. According to the source, Funk didn’t pull the pistol and shoot at Flatoff because he was afraid, if he did, he would be charged with murder. It is incredible that Neenah officers would not recognize Funk on sight. While he tried to run to safety, Hoffer and two other Swat officers named Jonathan Kuffel and Robert Ross fired 12 shots at Funk without warning. Five of the shots struck Funk. Funk was shot twice while he was on the ground.
Last week, Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson told The Associated Press, “It certainly appears from the video that there was no warning was given…There is no requirement that a warning be given, either by law or policy.”
A common sense question is why would police murder Funk?
Hoffer in particular had a history with both Funk and Eagle Nation’s other owner, Steven V. Erato. Hoffer, a former undercover drug officer, participated in the 2012 raid on Eagle Nation Cycles. During that raid, Hoffer personally disarmed Funk and learned that Funk could legally carry a pistol. During that raid, the source alleged, Hoffer was video recorded planting marijuana in the shop office and, after police seized that recording, the video was edited.
That evidence planting allegation isn’t new. In a lawsuit filed by Funk, Erato and two others against the city of Neenah in December 2014, their lawyer, Cole White, wrote: “The officers claimed to have found a small amount of marijuana in one of the offices of Eagle Nation Cycles. However, suspiciously, the video recording in that office cuts out following the police entry into the room and then resumes only after the alleged discovery. The video equipment was seized by SWAT Officers, and was not returned for several months.”
The same allegation was repeated in a story by Kate Briquelet in the Daily Beast last January 28.
The 2012 raid and its aftermath was personally devastating to Funk and Erato. The suit they filed sought $50 million in punitive damages, $200,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in lost income. The suit however was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it could not be refiled, by Federal District Judge William C. Griesbach six weeks after Funk was killed. Griesbach ruled that White had refused to present his clients to be deposed in Milwaukee a month before Funk died and that White had failed to follow court rules in three of four federal cases he had pursued. Judge Griesbach called White’s failure to follow proper procedure “a pattern” and punished Funk and Erato for it. Erato subsequently told The Aging Rebel that the complainants had never been notified they were scheduled to be deposed. This page tried and was unable to contact White during the preparation of this story. Erato and the other complainants in the 2014 suit are now indigent and unable to pursue their complaints against Neenah.
The suit had theorized that the 2012 Swat raid was motivated by the city’s intention to seize the Eagle Nation Cycles building, a former can factory that once sat in an industrial section of the town but is now in the middle Neenah’s recently redeveloped downtown. A new, $9 million office building is being constructed next to Eagle Nation Cycles.
There have been multiple, well publicized cases of police planting evidence in Wisconsin in recent years. The most famous of those was the basis for a Netflix series titled Making A Murderer about a wrongfully convicted man named Steven Avery that as cablecast last year. Ironically and tragically, after his release Avery murdered a woman named Teresa Halbach.