NEENAH, Wis. — The owner of a Neenah motorcycle shop and several others are suing police, a judge and government agencies over a 2012 raid.
The plaintiffs claim they suffered emotional and psychological trauma when officers armed with assault rifles stormed Eagle Nation Cycles and raided the shop. Owner Steven Erato and three others, Michael Funk, Wendy Williamson and Lottie Tucker, claim the raid was unjustified and want $50 million in punitive damages.
"The hyper-militarized force parked an armored tank-like vehicle outside of Eagle Nation, stormed the building, bombarding the occupants with assault weapons drawn, screaming profanities and abuse, all while wearing plain clothes (ununiformed) and face masks," the lawsuit reads.
The federal lawsuit alleges the raid was meant to force Erato out of business so the city could seize the property on which the business is located.
Police believed the business was part of a drug manufacturing and distribution operation, according to the lawsuit. A search warrant was obtained after officers from the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group reported witnessing a drug deal in the alley behind the shop in September 2012.
The raid resulted in 15 felony charges against Erato, including maintaining a drug trafficking place, being a felon in possession of a firearm and bail jumping. He was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and all other charges were dismissed.
"They threw everything but the kitchen sink at him, and it turned out to be nothing," Erato attorney Cole White told Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1vbKM6T ).
The plaintiffs are also seeking $200,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in lost income. The lawsuit lists the city of Neenah, Neenah Police Department, Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson, Capt. Tom Long, Winnebago County and Winnebago County Circuit Judge Scott Woldt as the defendants.
The suit has been referred to the defense counsel within the city's insurance company, Neenah City Attorney Jim Godlewski said, and city officials are evaluating evidence to decide how to respond.
John Bodnar, corporation counsel for Winnebago County, said he had seen the lawsuit but declined to comment.