The estate of Michael Funk – who was shot and killed by Neenah Police during a hostage situation at a motorcycle shop – has filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
Funk was killed last December while trying to escape from Eagle Nation Cycles in Neenah, where he was part of a group being held hostage by another man. Police opened fire on Funk at the same time as Brian Flatoff, the alleged hostage-taker, was also shooting at him. The lawsuit was filed by Funk’s widow, Theresa Mason-Funk, and the defendants are the City of Neenah, along with Officers Craig Hoffer and Robert Ross.
According to the complaint filed Monday, police responded to the store, and knew that Brian Flatoff was holding hostages. “Michael subsequently attempted to escape from Flatoff by going out the Shop’s rear entrance into the Alley. Flatoff shot at Michael as he attempted to escape. It was apparent to a reasonable person in Officer Hoffer’s and Officer Ross’s location that Flatoff was firing at Michael and that Michael was a hostage and was not the hostage-taker.”
The lawsuit argues that “Michael 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.”
Funk’s estate is arguing that the force used by police was unnecessary, unreasonable and excessive.”
Neenah City Attorney Jim Godlewski told Post-Crescent Media that the lawsuit will be referred to the city’s defense counsel. He had no comment on the lawsuit itself.
Following its investigation, the Wisconsin Department of Justice determined the officers thought Funk was the armed hostage taker and was a threat. The state found they were not criminally responsible for his killing.
Flatoff faces multiple charges in the case, including a count of felony murder for the death of Funk. He’s set to go on trial next spring.
Affiliate WTAQ contributed to this report.