Black Real Estate agent Held at Gunpoint at House Showing
Eric Brown of Grand Rapids Real Estate in Wyoming, MI, was giving Roy Thorne and his fifteen-year-old son Sammy a tour of a property back in August 2021. At that time, officers surrounded the Wyoming home with guns drawn and demanded the three of them come out after receiving a call about a home invasion at the location. All three men were African-American and subsequently handcuffed.
The police department, in a statement, said, “After a thorough internal review of the actions of each of our public safety officers who responded to this incident, we have concluded race played no role in our officers’ treatment of the individuals who were briefly detained, and our officers responded appropriately,”
Brown says he was giving the Thornes a home tour when he saw a police officer circling the property with his gun drawn. Brown had accessed the property through a lockbox for which he had a key. This is usual practice when real estate agents are showing vacant homes, or the owner cannot be there.
Brown didn’t know that at that point that a week earlier, a man had been detained on suspicion of illegally entering the home. A neighbor spotted Brown and called the cops, telling the dispatcher that the man was “back here again, and his car is sitting out front”, according to audio of the call.
Five cop cars showed up at the scene, and all three men were seen exiting the home with their hands up in the air, according to bodycam footage. After Brown convinced the officers that he was a real estate agent, by asking an officer to take his business card out of his wallet, they apologized to him, but Brown believes all men were being racially profiled.
Wyoming police said a review found that the officers did nothing wrong and that their actions were in “accordance with department policy and training.”
Brown later told NBC News that he believed the department’s response was inappropriate. The police captain “released that statement without enough initial due diligence to substantiate it,” he said. “Basically, she had to say to something. She’s going to have to answer some really hard questions here soon.” The police department said that Public Safety Director Kim Koster has reached out to Brown and is arranging a meeting.
In October 2021, Eric Brown filed a federal lawsuit in US District Court for the Western District of Michigan against the City of Wyoming. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages on five counts, claiming six police officers violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights, including unlawful detainment and excessive force, as well as violations of equal protection. Other counts include assault and battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit attributes the way the plaintiffs were treated to the fact they are black, saying, “Had the Plaintiffs not been African American men, they would not have been held at gunpoint, would not have been detained, and would not have been handcuffed.”
Additionally, the lawsuit claims the officers had evidence that neither Brown, Thorne, or his son were the individual that had been arrested the week before because their cars and their license plates did not match the previous suspect’s.
The city of Wyoming, the six officers involved, and the police chief are all named as defendants.
A city spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, stating, “The City of Wyoming does not comment on pending litigation.”