Wisconsin police shot hostage without warning, video shows
Michael L. Funk, 60, was one of three men held hostage at Eagle Nation Cycles shop in Neenah on December 5 last year. The hostage-taker, identified as Brian T. Flatoff, opened fire on a team of five police officers who tried to storm the shop. Minutes later, Funk escaped from the building – only to be gunned down by the cops.
Hours after the shooting, Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson said that Funk was shot after repeated warnings to drop his gun. Dashboard camera video from one of the police cars shows no such warning was given, and that Funk – who had a concealed carry permit – was pointing his gun towards the shop, and not at the officers. He never fired a shot.
"The video does not give any indication that there was a verbal command given directly to Michael Funk before he was shot," Wilkinson admitted on Thursday, after the footage was released by the Appleton Post-Crescent.
Wilkinson said his statement was based on witness reports at the time, including two police officers involved in the incident.
“If it turns out that there were no commands, as we don't hear in this video that you posted today, then that would indicate that those witnesses were wrong,” he told The Post-Crescent.
The recording shows Funk being hit multiple times, even after falling to the ground. Though the police report said he was given medical aid and died in hospital, the video also shows he remained in the alley for about 25 minutes before anyone approached him. He apparently died on the scene.
Cops: Hostage we shot didn't follow orders. Video: Not true. Cops: Hostage got medical care. Video: Not true either. https://t.co/rMQ2aODtxy— keegankyle (@keegankyle) April 28, 2016
“The concern that we have is trying the matter in the press,” Neenah city attorney Jim Godlewski he told the paper, declining to comment on the video.
Funk’s widow, Theresa, has filed a wrongful death suit against the city of Neenah and three police officers involved in the shooting, seeking $3.5 million in damages.
There was no legal or policy requirement for officers to give a warning before opening fire if there was an immediate threat, according to Chief Wilkinson. That still leaves the question of why the Neenah PD did not see it fit to correct its inaccurate report, contradicted by its own dashcam footage.
Our Editorial Board: Neenah police failed to correct misinformation in Neenah shooting, and that’s inexcusable. https://t.co/OBaVceDsck— Post-Crescent Media (@PostCrescent) April 28, 2016
“Neenah Police Department issued information that proved to be false about the shooting of Michael L. Funk, and went months without correcting it,” The Post-Crescent wrote in an editorial on Thursday, after releasing the video. “The images are gut-churning.”
Along with a dozen surrounding villages and towns, Neenah, Appleton, Kaukauna and Menasha are known as the “Fox Cities.” Situated along the Fox River in central Wisconsin, the area is a hub for the paper and printing industry.