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Family of biker killed in hostage standoff considers lawsuit

Officers from various municipalities are positioned near the site of a shooting at a motorcycle shop in Neenah, Wis., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (Ron Page/The Post-Crescent via AP)

Officers from various municipalities are positioned near the site of a shooting at a motorcycle shop in Neenah on Saturday. On Monday, the family of a man killed during the standoff said they are considering a lawsuit against police. (Ron Page/The Post-Crescent via AP)

By GREG MOORE
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The family of a biker killed during a police standoff at a Wisconsin motorcycle repair shop is considering whether to file a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer said Monday.

Michael Funk was fatally shot in the encounter, according to his attorney, Cole White, who says his client was a victim and shouldn’t have been killed.

Funk was taken hostage by “a psychopath with a gun,” White said. He described the standoff based on what he had been told by the principal owner of Eagle Nation Cycles, Steve Erato, saying someone came into the shop holding another man at gunpoint Saturday morning. The gunman had sold his bike but wanted it back and took the buyer to Eagle Nation to retrieve it, White said, providing a glimpse into what sparked the hours-long hostage standoff.

White said Erato had been in the building and called police after hearing a gunshot.

Officers responded and were met with gunfire when they tried to enter the shop, according to a police statement. One officer was struck in a ballistics helmet.

Authorities haven’t said whom they suspect of shooting at them from inside the business in Neenah, nor have they said who was killed outside a short time later.

Neenah police said in the statement the man who was killed was not the person who started the standoff, but they said he was armed and wouldn’t drop his weapon. One or more officers opened fire, but police don’t know whether the suspect inside the shop shot as well, the statement read.

In the following hours, several hostages were released. It’s not clear from the statement how many. The man police suspect of starting the encounter surrendered, according to the statement.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has taken over the investigation and didn’t return an email seeking comment Monday.

Winnebago County Deputy District Attorney Scott Ceman said Monday the man arrested following the standoff was in jail on suspicion of reckless endangerment for something that happened before he went into Eagle Nation. Ceman declined to elaborate.

The Associated Press hasn’t identified the man because he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

White said his relationship with Funk began as part of an ongoing $50 million lawsuit alleging rights violations by the Neenah police, stemming from a 2012 raid. He said police expected to find a drug distribution ring, but uncovered only a small amount of pot.

“Police have tried to paint Eagle Nation as a gang, but that’s not the case,” White said, adding that the business often functions as a community center.

City officials deny the allegations in the lawsuit.

Erato pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession following the raid, White said.

He said Funk’s family isn’t interested in making a statement at this time, but that they’re concerned about the officers’ actions and are considering their next steps.

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