Friday, April 29, 2016

Someone Must Be Held Accountable

I would hope that there are a number of high-level meetings going on at Neenah City Hall today to discuss why misinformation was provided to the press and the public for so long in connection with the hostage situation and fatal shooting at Eagle Nation Cycles back in December.  Since that day, Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson told us that his officers shouted for Michael Funk to drop his handgun after he escaped from the building--before opening fire on him.  Wilkinson also said that those officers then rushed in trying to save Funk's life--and that he was taken to Theda Clark--where he eventually died.  It was a version of events Wilkinson reiterated first when the ambulance company and ThedaCare claimed there was no patient taken to the hospital that day--and again when Funk's family filed a $3.5-Million lawsuit against the city alleging officers opened fire upon Funk without warning--and then left him lying in the street to die.

But on Thursday, USA Today Wisconsin Network posted dashcam video from a Neenah Police Department squad car that showed pretty much everything Wilkinson said that happened was wrong--and pretty much everything Funk's family said happened was correct.  The video shows Funk jumping out of the building and trying to run away when officers opened fire on him.  No audible warnings to "drop your gun!" or "get on the ground!".  Then, an armored vehicle moves to the scene--but no one rushes out to help Funk or to even check if he is still alive.

In interviews with the media on Thursday, Wilkinson admitted to having seen the dashcam video--but offered no explanation for why he did not revise his version of events that day until the newspaper released the video.  He also offered the excuse that his statement that Funk was warned to drop his weapon before being shot was not based on comments by his officers themselves--but rather from witnesses--who can often times be unreliable in their recall of events in very stressful situations.

I'm sure that an attorney--perhaps one at City Hall--advised the Neenah Police Department to stand by its initial version of events at Eagle Nation--especially after the Funk family filed its lawsuit.  But as public officials who need the public's trust to properly carry out their duties, this obstructionism will likely do more harm than the acts captured in the video themselves.  And now those officials who both took part in and authorized this intentional effort to mis-inform the public must be held accountable--and I'm not talking about paying civil judgements that are covered by the taxpayers.

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