Real estate agent Eric Brown, along with his client Roy Thorne and Thorne’s teenage son Samuel, have filed a federal suit stemming from an August incident where Wyoming, Mich. police ordered them out of a house they were touring and placed them in handcuffs.
Per CNN, the lawsuit was filed Oct. 1 in the U.S. District Court for Michigan’s Western District and lists the city of Wyoming, its police chief and six officers as defendants. The suit claims the officers violated the rights of Brown and the Thornes and seeks unspecified damages on charges that include unlawful detainment, excessive force and false imprisonment among others.
As The Root previously reported, Brown was showing the Thornes a house when police suddenly surrounded it with guns drawn and demanded they come outside with their hands up. They were placed in handcuffs and were only released after Brown explained that he’s a real estate agent.
The officers claimed Brown’s vehicle matched the description of one belonging to someone that had recently squatted at the house. Brown believed he and the Thornes were racially profiled, as the three of them are Black.
The lawsuit stems from an incident on August 1, when a neighbor called authorities reporting that a suspect arrested at the property a week prior for unlawful entry had returned to the scene in the same car, according to a timeline previously released by the Wyoming Department of Public Safety.
In audio of the call released by Wyoming police in August, the caller is heard telling dispatch that a “young Black man” had been arrested at the house the week before. Police said it was a different caller from the initial incident, but “the caller was aware of the previous arrest and had seen the arrested individual and his vehicle,” and had been asked by the homeowner to watch the house.
A Wyoming officer contacted the caller to clarify that it was the same suspect and vehicle from the previous incident. The caller confirmed it was, police said.
The caller was mistaken, however. Brown was giving Thorne and his son a tour of the home after scheduling the visit online the day before, Brown would explain to the officers, according to body camera footage released by police.
The body camera footage also showed the moments after Brown explained he was a real estate agent showing the house, according to CNN. The officers said that the incident appeared to be a “misunderstanding,” removed the handcuffs from Brown and the Thornes and apologized to them.
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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 gun point, would not have been detained, and would not have been handcuffed.”
The Wyoming Public Safety Department previously said that its officers were justified in their actions, and that “race played no role” in their treatment of Brown and the Thornes.