In Wyoming, Michigan, police claim that the handcuffing of a Black real estate agent and his customers, captured on body camera and dash-camera video, was not racially motivated because a home invasion had occurred at the same house a week before.
“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,” Wyoming Police Department, which serves the suburb outside of Grand Rapids, said in a statement. “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.”
Police arrive, and an officer is heard declaring himself as police and ordering anyone inside to come out with their hands up, according to dash-camera footage released by the department. Fox News reported that a possible buyer on a house tour, Roy Thorne, walks out.
“You in the grey shirt, walk toward me with your hands up,” an officer off-camera says.
He turns around and puts his hands behind his back in response to directions.
Thorne’s 15-year-old son and Eric Brown, a real estate agent, then arrive on the porch with their hands up. Brown was later found to have access to a lockbox to take clients on a tour of the house. In addition, two of the five officers on the scene had pulled their weapons.
Footage from a body camera shows a handcuffed suspect. Brown calmly explained to authorities that he is a real estate agent who confirmed a property tour on Aug. 1st over the internet and was given electronic access to the front door lock box using his iPhone. An officer removes Brown’s shackles and apologizes for the inconvenience after traveling from the street back to the front door to check that information.
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” Brown says. “I guess I understand the neighbors’ concerns if the home had been broken into.”
As Brown converses with officers, one officer tells that another person was arrested a few days ago by a different cop for allegedly breaking into the property. The three were handcuffed for about five minutes and kept for a short time, but they were never arrested.
According to the department, Wyoming Police Chief Kimberly Koster contacted the three, offering to meet with them and any other family. According to authorities, handcuffing is standard procedure in an emergency.
Brown later told WOOD-TV that the incident “threw me back” in an on-camera interview.
“I feel pretty anxious, or nervous or maybe even a little bit scared about what do I do to protect myself if I’m going to show a home and the authorities just get called on a whim like that,” Brown said. “Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”
Thorne described the encounter as “traumatizing” for him and his son, conceding that the officers apologized “but at the same time, the damage is done.”
“My son was a little disturbed, he hasn’t seen anything like that,” Thorne said. “He’s not going to forget this.”
According to the video, Thorne was handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car with the door open. His son was temporarily placed in the backseat of another squad car before the officer escorting him was instructed to release the teen’s shackles.
“Definitely not buying this place,” Thorne is heard telling officers on the footage that he was visiting the residence with his real estate agent.
In a statement, the department claimed that on July 24, a suspect, also a Black man, arrived in a car that looked identical to the real estate agent’s car and was caught after breaking into the property without permission. That man also informed police that he wanted to buy the house but wasn’t with a real estate agent and didn’t have the homeowner’s permission to enter.
According to the statement, on Aug. 1, a neighbor noticed Brown’s car parked in front of the residence and called police, saying the intruder had returned. She also misidentified the automobile parked out front as a black Mercedes when Brown arrived in a black Hyundai Genesis to see the house.
In a 911 call released by police, a neighbor is heard informing a dispatcher:
“Last week Saturday, the police came out. There was a young Black man that was squatting in a home that was for sale. I know they came and took him away and towed his car away. Well, he’s back there again.”
Although the police denied that race played a role in their approach, many disagreed. “While, thankfully, neither Brown nor his clients were physically harmed in the incident, racial profiling—and the humiliation, indignity and trauma that comes with it—has no place in our country,” Charlie Oppler, president of the National Association of Realtors, said in a statement to MLive.