The house on Sharon Avenue in Wyoming, Michigan was meant to be another option for real estate agent Eric Brown to show his client.
Instead, visiting the property became one of the more traumatic experiences for Mr Brown and his client, Roy Thorne, who are black, after police converged on the house during the screening of the 1st. August, they said in interviews on Sunday. .
Mr Brown and Mr Thorne were looking around upstairs when Mr Thorne’s 15-year-old son Samuel Thorne rushed up to them from the first floor and said there was “a lot police outside, âBrown said. , 46.
It was then that Mr Thorne, 45, looked out the window and saw a policeman with a drawn gun, hiding behind a tree, Mr Brown said. Mr Thorne called the officer, who pointed a gun at him, the two men said.
The officer ordered the two men and the teenager to come down and out with their hands raised, Mr Brown said.
“I was like, ‘If they shoot me first, they’ll stop there and not hit my son,” said Mr. Thorne, an army veteran. âAt that time, I was not afraid to die. I was just afraid it would hurt.
Police handcuffed Mr Thorne, Mr Brown and his son, according to a declaration from the Wyoming, Michigan Department of Public Safety. The city, which is near Grand Rapids, has a population of around 75,000 people, nearly three-quarters of whom are white, according to 2019 census data. Less than 8% of the population is black.
Mr Brown said he told agents they could reach into his pocket and withdraw his real estate license. He explained that he entered the house because real estate agents have access to the keys.
Agents let the real estate agent and his clients go when they realized no one had broken into the house, the statement said. About 20 minutes earlier, a neighbor had called police to report someone had entered the house, police said.
Someone was arrested a week earlier after breaking into the house, the statement said. The neighbor believed Mr 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 provided by the police.
Officers spoke to Mr. Brown about the vehicles and, according to body camera images obtained by WOOD-TV, he replied, “Yes, and my car really looks like a Mercedes.”
“I was both real and sarcastic,” Brown said on Sunday.
âYou have a better day,â one of the agents at the scene told the realtor and his clients, according to the images. “Sorry for the confusion.”
Kyle Gummere, the property listing agent working for the owners of the house, said he did not believe the neighbor called the police because of the race of those inside the house .
This assessment, he said, is based on a conversation he had with the owners of the house, who told Mr Gummere that a neighbor called the police only after seeing a black vehicle parked. outside the house – not after seeing Mr. Brown, Mr. Thorne and his son.
“I don’t think it’s racially motivated at all,” Gummere said, adding that he shared this view with Mr. Brown, who disagreed.
âUnderstand that neighbors are old people,â he added. “They probably won’t know the difference between the models.”
Mr Gummere declined to share the owners’ names and said he did not know the name of the neighbor who called the police.
Mr Brown said what had happened was clearly a case of racial profiling.
âIf we had gotten out of there and I had been a white lady and her white client and daughter, they would have dropped those guns in the blink of an eye,â he said.
But the city’s public security ministry, after a “thorough internal review,” challenged the idea.
“Race has played no role in the treatment of individuals by our officers,” the department statement said. âAlthough it is unfortunate that innocent people were handcuffed, our officers reacted reasonably and in accordance with department policy based on the information they had at the time. “
Mr Brown and Mr Thorne have hired a lawyer to represent them and said they would consider legal action “if the lawsuit makes any changes.”
the house, which was listed for $ 239,900had seemed an attractive option for his client, Mr Brown said, because it was in a quiet area and was selling for a good price. Mr. Thorne said he was no longer considering the house.
He grew up in Wyoming, Michigan, but “I’m 100% guaranteed not to buy a house in this town,” he said. He said he and his son would continue to look elsewhere.
âI still have to find a home,â he said. “I just know where not to look.”