Without context, the news is just noise.
Big picture, it is starting to look like the American democracy has been corrupted by police violence and abuse. A breaking story today describes the ordeal of a 43-year-old mother named Julie Mall who was arrested last year in Bald Head Island, North Carolina for allowing her 11-year-old son to drive a golf cart for a couple of blocks. Mall was roughed up and charged with child abuse, public intoxication and resisting a public officer.
Last week, the San Francisco Police Chief resigned after a cop shot and killed an unarmed woman. San Francisco cops killed six people last year. Ninety-five people have been shot by police in San Francisco since 2000. Forty of those victims died. No criminal charges were filed against police as a result of any of those incidents.
After a Chicago cop named Jason Van Dyke shot a 17-year-old in the back 16 times, and only stopped when he ran out of bullets, and the police covered up the murder for more than two years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel admitted that there is a “code of silence” in his city’s police department.
This is the new normal. This is what America now means. The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s biggest police union, has started a social media campaign called “Blue Lives Matter” that is intended to portray police officers who kill citizens as heroes and victims.
Five months after his murder by Neenah, Wisconsin police, as he tried to escape a kidnapper, the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced that two Neenah Swat “operators” named Craig Hoffer and Robert Ross fired 19 shots at Eagle Nation Cycles co-owner Michael L. Funk. Police had previously claimed the pair fired only a dozen shots at Funk. The killers used M-16 style rifles. They dressed like toy heavy commandos – not like soldiers who actually patrol but like soldiers in movies. They fired at Funk from a conversational distance – the distance at which a pistol is effective. More than half their shots missed. They still managed to shoot Funk nine times. According to the Wisconsin DOJ, “The majority of these wounds were to the left side of his back; his left shoulder; and his left torso, hip and leg,” He was shot at least twice while he lay dying on the ground. Afterward, Hoffer was videotaped laughing about the murder.
Funk, was taken hostage by an armed, deranged, disgruntled customer named Brian T. Flatoff. Police responded, after 45 minutes, by trying to storm the store like Eagle Nation Cycles was a house in Fallujah. The original intent of Swat when it was invented in Los Angeles, after a shootout between police and a radical group called the Symbionese Liberation Army, was to contain hostage situations and negotiate with the hostage takers: At its inception Swat was supposed to be a way to minimize violence not give police some much needed target practice. During the Neenah assault, Swat looked like the Keystone Kops or small boys pretending. When police scrambled out of the motorcycle shop in disarray they left the back door open. Funk escaped through that door, hid behind a truck and then was gunned down when he tried to run to safety.
Healing To Do
It wasn’t the first Swat raid on Eagle Nation Cycles. A lawsuit followed a raid in 2012. Police knew who Funk was. Funk was one of the complainants in that lawsuit. Hoffer was videotaped trying to plant drugs in the motorcycle shop during that 2012 raid. Funk believed police erased a portion of the tape that caught Hoffer red-handed. Funk’s murder and the events peripheral to it was recorded on 92 videos. You can watch all the videos used in the Wisconsin DOJ investigation into the shooting here.
Funk’s murder was not a whodunit. Everybody knows what happened. Hoffer and Ross were not charged with Funk’s death because they had invented a baseless, preposterous, paranoid fantasy that the hostage taking at the bike shot was really an ambush intended to kill them. And the Wisconsin DOJ thought that fantasy was reason enough for them to kill Funk.
Last week, in a nauseating display of self-absorption, Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson portrayed the Swat team operators who murdered Funk as victims. He told USA Today Wisconsin, “Five of our sworn officers … have recently been the victim of attempted murder, and that impacts people. And so we have our own healing to do.”
Hoffer and Ross are currently on desk duty awaiting an evaluation from a psychologist. “I would expect them to be back to work in the next month or so, as long as the doctor approves,” the Chief said.
Theresa Mason-Funk, Micahel Funk’s widow, has filed a $3.5 million claim against the city.