Last week Theresa Mason-Funk, the widow of Michael L. Funk who was killed in a half-baked and homicidal Swat raid on Eagle Nation Cycles last December 5, filed suit against the city of Neenah, Wisconsin and the two local cops who killed her husband. Mrs. Funk is represented by Brookfield, Wisconsin attorneys Howard B. Schoenfeld and Joseph A. Ranney
Funk was one of five men held hostage at gun point by Brian Flatoff who had sold his motorcycle to raise bail in a drunk driving case. The motorcycle was in the Eagle Nation motorcycle shop for repairs and Flatoff, armed with a machine pistol lookalike, demanded the bike be immediately reassembled and returned to him.
Funk managed to escape his abductor after a slapstick and fruitless assault by Swat officers who entered through the back door of the shop. Two Swat officers fell down a set of stairs. The others exchanged gunfire with Flatoff then ran away. When Flatoff told Funk to close the back door Funk dove outside. When Flatoff shot at Funk, Funk drew a legally possessed pistol, returned fire and took cover behind a truck. He was killed by shots fired by Neenah police officers Craig Hoffer and Robert Ross.
According to the lawsuit, Funk: “posed no threat to Officers Hoffer and Ross or to anyone else as he attempted to escape. Nevertheless, within seconds after Michael exited the shop, Officers Hoffer and Ross emerged from their protected position and shot Michael multiple times without giving him any warning of their presence, any warning that he might be shot, or any other instruction or communication of any sort. Many of the shots fired by Officers Hoffer and Ross struck Michael in the back. Michael fell in the Alley. After Michael fell, he was still alive. Officer Ross then shot Michael twice more. Michael lay unattended in the alley next to the Shop’s rear entrance for approximately 30 minutes after he was shot. Officers Hoffer and Ross made no attempt to ascertain Michael’s condition or to procure medical assistance and help for him, even though they learned within four minutes after the shooting that Michael was not the hostage-taker. Michael died while lying in the Alley. Subsequently Michael was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.”
Before shooting Funk, police on scene including Hoffer and Ross had been told: “That the only hostage-taker was Flatoff; that there were multiple hostages in the shop; that the only hostage-taker was a white male who was wearing a plaid jacket; that Michael was a hostage and was wearing a black shirt with the name ‘Eagle Nation’ written on it in yellow letters;” and “that Michael had a concealed carry permit and might have a gun on his person.”
However, after the slapstick assault, “Officers Hoffer and Ross concluded that none of the persons in the shop were hostages and that all of the persons in the shop had set an ambush for the police and posed a threat to the police. They reached that conclusion despite the fact that they had received information from the Neenah PD dispatcher that Flatoff was holding hostages, they had not identified the person shooting at them during the assault, they had not determined what the other persons in the shop were doing during the assault, and they had no other evidence to support their conclusion.”
Could Care Less
Funk had no idea where the police were. He made no threatening moves toward police. He had no communication with police. He simply tried to escape. The suit alleges that Hoffer shot Funk twice and Ross shot him at least seven times. Ross shot Funk at least twice after he had fallen to the ground.
The lawsuit continues: “ After Officers Hoffer and Ross fired their initial shots, Michael fell to the ground. After he fell, it was apparent that he was severely wounded and posed no threat of harm to anyone. As Michael lay on the ground wounded, Officer Ross shot him twice more. After the shooting ceased, Officer Eichmann asked Officer Hoffer if they should check Michael’s condition. Officer Hoffer replied: ‘Fuck that. I could care less right now if he sits there and dies.’”
“Michael lay unattended in the alley for more than 30 minutes after being shot. During that period, the Neenah PD and its officers made no effort to reach Michael or to provide help or medical attention, even though a protective armored vehicle was available for use in reaching Michael and even though they learned within four minutes after the shooting that Michael was not the hostage-taker. Subsequently Michael was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.”
Most of the allegations in the civil suit seem to be substantiated by video recordings. Funk’s widow and her lawyers think, “The conduct of Officers Hoffer and Ross violated clearly established constitutional rights of which reasonable officers knew or should have known.”
The suit seeks untotaled damages to include compensatory damages, punitive and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.
Through May, the city of Neenah had spent $82,239 in legal fees to defend its Hoffer and Ross. The city will have 60 days to reply to the suit filed last week.