clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Black real estate agent, client in Michigan handcuffed by police: ‘Am I just automatically the criminal?’

Eric Brown was showing a home in Wyoming, Mich., to a man and the man’s 15-year-old son when a neighbor wrongly reported the three Black people were breaking in.

This image from video provided by the Wyoming, Mich., police department shows real estate agent Eric Brown outside a home he was showing to a potential buyer in Wyoming, Mich. Police handcuffed Brown, his client and that man’s 15-year-old son after a neighbor wrongly reported the three Black people were breaking into a home.
This image from video provided by the Wyoming, Mich., police department shows real estate agent Eric Brown outside a home he was showing to a potential buyer in Wyoming, Mich. Police handcuffed Brown, his client and that man’s 15-year-old son after a neighbor wrongly reported the three Black people were breaking into a home.
Wyoming Police Department via AP

WYOMING, Mich. — Police in west Michigan handcuffed a real estate agent, his client and the man’s 15-year-old son after a neighbor wrongly reported that the three Black people were breaking in to a home.

The agent, Eric Brown, told WOOD-TV that two of the five Wyoming, Mich., police officers who responded drew their guns, which he said appeared to an aggressive response that “threw me back.”

“Am I just automatically the criminal?” Brown said. “Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”

The Wyoming police department defended the officers’ actions, saying they followed protocol for responding to a report of a home invasion.

The police said Chief Kimberly Koster offered to meet with Brown and the others.

Roy Thorne, Brown’s client, called the experience in the Grand Rapids suburb “traumatizing” for him and his son.

The department released body-camera footage that shows officers handcuffing them. One officer had his weapon out and pointed it at Thorne as he left the home as the officers ordered.

Thorne said that officer apologized, “but, at the same time, the damage is done.

“My son was a little disturbed,” Thorne said. “He hasn’t seen anything like that … He’s not going to forget this.”

The footage also shows the police putting Thorne in the back seat of a squad car with the door open after handcuffing him.

“Definitely not buying this place,” Thorne says on the video after explaining he was there with his real estate agent.

Brown used his cellphone to show the officers he scheduled an appointment online to take Thorne to the house and had an access code to get inside.

Thorne’s son was put in the back seat of another squad car briefly before the officer accompanying him was told to uncuff the teenager.

Another Black man with a similar car to the real estate agent’s vehicle was arrested after he went into the house without permission July 24, according to the police. They said that person told officers he was interested in buying the house but wasn’t with a real estate agent and didn’t have the homeowner’s permission to go inside.

The police said a neighbor saw Brown’s car in front of the house on Aug. 1 and wrongly reported the intruder had returned. Brown’s car is the same color as the one the person arrested in July drove but a different make and model.

“Somebody dropped the ball somewhere,” one of the officers can be heard saying to another after Brown and Thorne explained why they were at the house.