NEENAH – Steve Erato, owner of Eagle Nation Cycles, said he thinks police “shot the wrong guy” in a tense hostage situation Saturday at his motorcycle shop in downtown Neenah.
Erato and his attorney, Cole White of Green Bay, identified the victim as Michael L. Funk, 60, of Neenah.
“He was a hostage coming out (of the building),” Erato told Post-Crescent Media on Sunday. “They shot him in the alley. They shot the wrong guy.”
Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson said in an email Sunday evening that the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation into the shooting.
“We aren’t even interviewing our most involved people until after DCI finishes with them,” Wilkinson said. “Thus, we have limited details about all that transpired. DCI knows far more about what happened there than I do.”
Funk, also known as ML, was a regular at Eagle Nation Cycles, 206 Main St. Erato said Funk was at the shop Saturday morning when a gunman armed with a MAC-10 entered the business and demanded back his motorcycle, which had been sold to another man and was at the shop for work.
Erato was in the basement of the building when the gunman entered. He came upstairs when he heard a commotion. Funk saw him and secretly motioned for him to go back downstairs. Shortly before 9 a.m., Erato heard a gunshot from upstairs and called police to report “an active shooter in the building.”
Erato told police that the gunman was holding Funk and one or two others as hostages in the shop and that he (Erato) was holed up in the basement. Erato kept in contact with a police dispatcher during much of the ordeal.
Neenah police said in a statement that they received information about 9:20 a.m. that the hostages “were in immediate danger of being killed.”
Police tried to enter the building to rescue the hostages but were met with gunfire and retreated, the statement said. One officer was shot by someone inside the building. He was hit in his helmet and required medical attention but was not seriously injured.
A short time later, police said a man armed with a gun left the building. They have not identified that man.
“This subject did not comply with officers’ instructions to drop the firearm and was subsequently shot at by one or more officers on scene,” the police statement said. “We do not know if he was also shot at by the subject inside the business.”
White, an attorney who represents Erato and Funk in an ongoing $50 million federal lawsuit against Neenah, Neenah police and Winnebago County, said he understood “that ML was killed by law enforcement.”
“I’m devastated at his loss,” White said. “He was a great guy.”
Police negotiated with the gunman who reportedly fired the initial shot for several hours before surrendered to police about 1 p.m. Police have not identified the man.
Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett said Sunday that any charges against the man probably wouldn’t be filed until midweek at the earliest. Police are keeping his office informed about the investigation but have not yet recommended charges, Gossett said.
On Sunday, Department of Justice spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz declined to release additional information about the investigation.
“DOJ’s investigation continues,” she said in an email to Post-Crescent Media. “In order to preserve the integrity of that investigation we have nothing to add to what the police department shared earlier.”
Erato said Funk had a concealed-carry permit for a gun, but Erato doesn’t understand why Funk wouldn’t comply with police commands, as stated by police.
“I can’t imagine that he had a gun on him and wouldn’t use it on the shooter and would run out and threaten the cops,” Erato said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
White said he also is left with questions.
“We believe at some point there must have been a scuffle between ML and the gunman and ML leaves the building trying to get help,” White said. “We don’t know what happened in terms of the law enforcement interaction, but he winds up dead.”
White said Eagle Nation Cycles has surveillance cameras on the property that might show what happened. He said the Department of Justice has seized the footage for its investigation.
The gunman who was arrested had made previous threats against the man who bought his motorcycle, White said. Those threats were reported to authorities, including the gunman’s probation officer, he said.
“Had somebody been able to act on that information sooner, none of this would have happened yesterday,” White said.
Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson answers questions about the Saturday standoff Alison Dirr/Post-Crescent Media
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