Neenah, WI -- The only casualty of an hours-long SWAT raid and hostage situation in Neenah, Wisconsin was a disabled veteran who had filed a $50 million civil rights suit after he survived a similar SWAT raid three years ago.
Michael Funk, a co-owner of Eagle Nation Cycles, was shot and killed by police after being held hostage for several hours on December 5. Police evacuated several buildings and closed down an entire street in the city, which is located about 40 miles south of Green Bay.
“Mike worked there,” observed attorney Cole White, who had represented him in his lawsuit against the City of Neenah and its police department. “Mike was a hostage … not a suspect, he was not involved criminally. He was a hostage that was taken at gunpoint by this maniac.”
A suspect was taken into custody at about 1:00 PM. His name has not been released, nor has the name of the officer who killed Funk. The official story is that Funk, who had a concealed carry license, refused to drop his gun in response to police commands after he fled the building.According to the preliminary police account, the still-unidentified officer who killed Funk was shot and suffered trivial injuries. It isn’t known how the hostage situation began.
In 2012, the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group staged a SWAT raid at Eagle Nation Cycles that resulted in 15 felony charges against business owner Steven Erato – all of which were dismissed. He was eventually convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.
“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at him, and it turned out to be nothing,” observed White, who is still representing Erato in the federal lawsuit.
During the raid, “The hyper-militarized force parked an armored tank-like vehicle outside of Eagle Nation, stormed the building, bombarding the occupants with assault weapons drawn, screaming profanities and abuse, all while wearing plainclothes (ununiformed) and face masks,” recounted the lawsuit. The raid was supposedly justified because an informant with the task force supposedly witnessed a drug deal in the alley behind the motorcycle shop on the previous day.
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The objective of the raid was to close down the business and seize the property on which it stood through “asset forfeiture,” the suit contends. Just days ago, the City of Neenah had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
It's likely that one of the “tank-like” vehicles employed in the most recent raid at Eagle Nation Cycles was the $770,000 “Peacekeeper” armored vehicle, which the department obtained for “free” six months ago through the Pentagon’s notorious 1033 “surplus property” program.
Responding to concerns expressed by municipal officials that acquisition of the “Peacekeeper” signified that the department is “moving … philosophically toward becoming a military, agents of the federal government, much like the military would be, I certainly don’t agree with that at all,” Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson told the Green Bay Fox Affiliate. Wilkinson described the vehicle as similar in size and construction to “a snow plow or a garbage truck.”
The “Peacekeeper” replaced the armored vehicle that had been used during the first SWAT assault on Eagle Nation Cycles, which was made in 1979 and was considered “incapable of keeping people safe from some of the armaments that have been used in the last few years,” Chief Wilkinson continues.
Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert clearly identified the “people” whose safety he prioritized: “The one thing I don’t want to do during my tenure as mayor is … to go to a policeman’s funeral. And so if this vehicle can protect them I’m willing to accept that.”
The “Peacekeeper” did nothing to protect Michael Funk, whom the Neenah Police supposedly set out to rescue. His death was the product of either incomprehensible misfortune or uncanny – and malicious – marksmanship on the part of a police department that institutionally had cause to resent him.
Mayor Kaufert has not indicated whether he will be attending Funk’s funeral, but given that the deceased was a plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit against the city it’s likely that Kaufert and Wilkinson will somehow contain their bereavement.