Neenah police chief: “Our citizens have a right to know what happened”

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Brian Flatoff

Brian Flatoff

NEENAH — The Neenah Police Department on Thursday, December 10th released a video addressing the hostage standoff that occurred at a Neenah motorcycle shop this past weekend.

In the video, Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson said it is the department’s duty to “provide accurate information that is not tainted by personal agenda and to do that quickly.”

“Our citizens have a right to know what happened. At the same time, we have to be careful to not infringe on the investigation,” said Chief Wilkinson.

Police were called to Eagle Nation Cycles, a motorcycle repair shop in the 200 block of Main Street in Neenah for a disturbance around 9:00 a.m. Saturday, December 5th.

Police say 45-year-old Brian Flatoff, the man facing charges in connection with what happened prior to the standoff, allegedly took several people hostage inside the building. One man, 60-year-old Michael Funk of Neenah, was shot and killed during the incident while trying to flee.

Flatoff faces the following charges, in connection with what happened prior to the standoff:

  • Second-degree recklessly dangering safety
  • Possession of a firearm by a felon
  • Felony bail jumping (three counts)

More charges are expected to be filed against Flatoff next week. Possible charges include the attempted homicide of a police officer, taking hostages, and murder for the death of Michael Funk.

“We’re not even close to concluding this investigation.  Witnesses are still being interviewed as we speak,” Scott Ceman, Winnebago County deputy district attorney said.

According to the criminal complaint, a friend to Flatoff talked with Neenah police. She believed Flatoff was “involved in the hostage incident” that was taking place at Eagle Nation Cycles. The friend told police Flatoff “had been drinking vodka or rum throughout the course of the night.” At one point, the complaint says “when he stood up, he fell over and hit his head.”

Early Saturday when Flatoff awoke, the friend yelled at Flatoff because “she thought he had a concussion and that she was going to call 911.” But Flatoff apparently ran at her “with a .45 caliber pistol in his hand and started to yell at her.” He said, “You know I can’t handle going back there, to prison.” The complaint indicates Flatoff then straddled the friend, and “he then pointed the gun at the wall behind her, above her head, and pulled the trigger.” The shot put a hole in the wall and the friend told police, “she probably had gunpowder from the shot on her face, but she had since wiped her face.”

Hostage situation in Neenah

Hostage situation in Neenah

After that incident, the complaint indicates Flatoff grabbed a 9mm Mac-10 handgun belonging to the friend — and departed for Eagle Nation Cycles. Flatoff apparently had an “ongoing issue over a motorcycle with employees” at the cycle shop. The friend believed Flatoff “was going there to beat up (an employee) and try to take his motorcycle back.”

The complaint filed against Flatoff makes reference to a 2003 conviction for felony bail jumping, and a 2015 case for felony OWI – fifth/sixth offense. The complaint says Flatoff was released from custody on August 28th, 2015 after posting bond in that case.

One man, 60-year-old Michael Funk of Neenah, was shot and killed during the incident at Eagle Nation Cycles while trying to flee. The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the officer-involved shooting portion of this incident. Police said Saturday it was possible Funk was shot by officers, and also by someone inside the Eagle Nation Cycles building. Police said Saturday the man was shot after he refused commands to drop a weapon.

Flatoff was taken into custody after hours of negotiations.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, the agency handling the investigation into the officer-involved shooting portion of this incident, released this statement on Tuesday, December 8th, confirming that Funk was indeed armed when he exited Eagle Nation Cycles, based on their investigation:

On December 5, 2015, the Neenah Police Department requested the Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation handle the investigation into an officer-involved shooting in the city of Neenah on that date.

There has been conflicting information circulating in the community regarding the events leading up to the officer-involved shooting. We are choosing to release very limited facts to prevent any further confusion or misinformation.

Our investigation thus far has shown that the deceased, Michael Funk, was armed when fired upon by police.  However, DOJ has much work ahead of us and a prosecutor will make a final determination on whether there should be charges in the case.

The Department of Justice is committed to providing an independent, transparent investigation into officer-involved incidents. It is critical to the integrity of all investigations that we take great caution to avoid releasing information piecemeal. We understand the community wants accurate information and we are committed to conducting an investigation that provides that.

Theresa Mason-Funk told Post-Crescent Media on Monday, December 7th that her husband, 60-year-old Michael Funk, had distanced himself from the D.C. Eagles and Hell’s Lovers motorcycle clubs and was looking forward to retirement.

Steve Erato, owner of Eagle Nation Cycles, says Funk was inside the shop when a gunman entered and took hostages Saturday, December 5th.

Erato and attorney Cole White say Funk was a victim who shouldn’t have been killed.

White says Funk’s family is considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

If convicted on the most serious charge, Flatoff faces up to ten years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Flatoff appeared in court in Winnebago County on Wednesday afternoon for his initial appearance via video monitor.

Bond was set at $500,000.

Flatoff is due back in court Monday, December 14th.

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