A Black real estate agent in Wyoming, Michigan experienced a case of racial profiling at its worst.
Jacqueline Francis of NBC affiliate WOOD-TV has reported that realtor Eric Brown and his client Roy Thorne, who is also Black, “were put in handcuffs during a showing Sunday [August 1] after armed Wyoming police officers responded to the house on a report of a break-in.”
According to Francis, the officers released the men as soon as they realized the mistake they had made. But now, the two men want their story heard, believing they were racially profiled and hoping they might prevent the same thing from happening to other innocent people of color.
“Brown said he was taking Thorne and his son through the home on Sharon Avenue SW when he noticed a growing police presence outside,” Francis said.
In an interview with WOOD-TV, Brown recalled that Thorne had called out to police through an upstairs window and asked them what the problem was. A number of officers had gathered on the property and had their guns drawn, pointing at the house.
The police ordered the men to slowly walk out of the building in a single-file line with their hands up. All three of them, including Thorne’s 15-year-old son, were then immediately placed in handcuffs.
“They kept their guns drawn on us until all of us were in cuffs,” Thorne recalled. “So, that was a little traumatizing, I guess, because, under the current climate of things, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
After he’d been cuffed, Brown was given a chance to explain the situation, showing the police his real estate credentials and proving that he had simply been trying to show the property and wasn’t breaking into it.
Recognizing their mistake, the police officers quickly expressed regret for their actions and released all three men.
“That officer came back and apologized again, but at the same time, the damage is done,” Thorne said. “My son was a little disturbed. He hasn’t seen anything like that … he’s not going to forget this.”
In a statement, Capt. Timothy Pols of the Wyoming Police Department said that the officers were simply responding to a neighbor’s 911 call.
“Officers were aware that a previous burglary had occurred at this same address on July 24 and that a suspect was arrested and charged for unlawful entry during that incident,” Pols told reporters. “The caller indicated that the previously arrested suspect had returned and again entered the house.”
Still, Brown and Thorne believe race played a role in how they were treated — and said they don’t think the same thing would have happened had they been white.
“The level of the response and the aggressiveness of the response was definitely a take-back,” Brown said. “It really threw me back.”
“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,” he added. “Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”