Real estate agent Eric Brown was showing a house on Sharon Avenue in Wyoming, Michigan, to Roy Thorne, when police converged on the house in another example of police-led trauma.
The two Black men were looking around upstairs when Thorne’s 15-year-old son, Samuel Thorne, sprinted up from the first floor to share that there were “a lot of police officers outside.”
Brown, 46, and Thorne, 45, looked out of a window to see a police officer with his gun drawn, hiding behind a tree. The officer instructed the two men and the teenager to come downstairs with their hands raised, according to Brown. “I told myself, ‘If they shoot me first, they’ll stop there and won’t hit my son,’” said Thorne, an Army veteran. “At that moment, I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was just afraid it was going to hurt.”
Police officers handcuffed Thorne, Brown and Samuel Thorne under the suspicion of breaking and entering. Brown told the officers after being detained that they could reach into his pocket and take out his real estate license. He explained that he had gotten into the house because real estate agents are given access to the keys.
The officers eventually let the three parties go when they realized that no one had actually broken into the house.
In a write-up to the New York Times, a neighbor had instigated the incident after calling the police to report that someone had entered the house.
There was a break-in a week earlier that resulted in a suspect being arrested, but the neighbor believed that Brown’s car, a black Hyundai Genesis, looked like a black Mercedes-Benz sedan that had been parked in the driveway at the time of the previous arrest, according to a recording of the call shared by police.
The officers told Brown about the vehicles, who replied, “Yeah, and my car definitely looks like a Mercedes.”
“I was both being true and being sarcastic,” Brown said Sunday.
“You have a better day,” one of the officers at the scene told the real estate agent and his clients, according to bodycam footage. “Sorry for the confusion.” Kyle Gummere, the property’s listing agent working for the owners of the house, said he did not believe the neighbor called the police based on the race of those who were inside the house.”
Based on a conversation, Gummere believes that the arrest was not racially motivated at all since the neighbor had only called the police based on the vehicle parked outside the house—not after seeing Brown, Thorne and his son. “I don’t believe that this is racially motivated at all,” Gummere said, adding that he had shared this viewpoint with Brown, who disagreed.
“Understand the neighbors are elderly people,” Gummere added. “They’re probably not going to know the difference between models.”
Gummere declined to share the name of the owners and said he did not know the name of the neighbor who called the police.
Brown said that what happened was a clear case of racial profiling.
“If we walked out of there, and I’d been a white lady and her white client and daughter, they would’ve dropped those guns in a heartbeat,” he said. But the city’s Department of Public Saftey has disputed that idea after a “thorough internal review.”
“Race played no role in our officers’ treatment of the individuals,” the department’s statement said. “While it is unfortunate that innocent individuals were placed in handcuffs, our officers responded reasonably and according to department policy based on the information available to them at the time.
Brown and Thorne have obtained a lawyer to represent them in the matter and believe that they will move forward with legal action “if suing the city makes some changes.”
The attractive house that Thorne was considering was listed at $239,000; he is no longer considering purchasing it despite it being in a quiet neighborhood.
“It’s 100% guaranteed I’m not buying a house in that city,” Thorne said of the place in Wyoming, Michigan, an area that is less than 8 percent Black.
“I still have to find a house,” he added. “I just know where not to look.”