A black real estate agent showing an Army veteran and his 15-year-old son, who are also black, a house in Michigan was confronted and handcuffed by police with drawn guns after a white couple called 911 on the group.
Eric Brown was showing a home in Wyoming, Michigan, to Roy Thorne, 45, and his 15 year-old son, Samuel, Sunday, when suddenly the house was surrounded by cops.
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Real estate agent Eric Brown (left) and Roy Thorne (right) talk about the harrowing experience with police during a house showing in Wyoming, Michigan
Real estate agent Eric Brown was showing Army vet Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son Samuel a home on Sunday when white neighbors called 911 on the group, who were all black
Brown initially was worried when he noticed them. ‘Roy looked outside and noticed there were officers there and they were pointing guns toward the property,’ Brown told WGNTV.com.
As Thorne identified the group to police through the upstairs window, he told the Washington Post, an officer from the Wyoming Police Department pointed a gun at him, causing him to duck. The officer then ordered them to leave in a single file with their hands up, with guns still pointing at them.
‘I was scared,’ Thorne said. ‘I was scared for my son.’
Thorne told the Post the thought, ‘we’re going to die today,’ passed his mind. The guns drawn on the men terrified him.
‘They keep their guns drawn on us until all of us were in cuffs,’ Thorne told WGNTV. ‘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.’
Once the three were cuffed, Brown showed officers his credentials as a real estate agent, and told them he was showing the home. He explained he had an app on his phone that gave him access to a lockbox with a house key.
It was then the officers realized their mistake and immediately freed the group, but Thorne told the Post he estimates the three were in cuffs for about 20 minutes.
Real estate agent Eric Brown (pictured) says the mix up with police has left a lasting impact that will effect how he does his job
Captain Timothy Pols of the Wyoming Police Department said police were following standard protocol and that the group’s race did not play a part in the incident
Brown showed officers his credentials as a real estate agent, while still cuffed, and told officers he was showing the home and police immediately uncuffed the group and apologized
Thorne said the officers apologized to the group and that he believes one of them was ‘genuinely sorry.’
He saw that officer talking with the couple who called 911 and, afterwards the officer told him he ‘chewed them out’ then apologized one more time.
The incident left the group shaken, including Thorne’s teenage son.
‘My son was a little disturbed,’ he told WGN9. ‘He hasn’t seen anything like that … he’s not going to forget this.’
Brown said he can’t help but feel race played a factor in the response. ‘The level of the response and the aggressiveness of the response was definitely a take-back. It really threw me back,’ Brown said.
But Captain Timothy Pols of the Wyoming Police Department told WGN9 that the group’s race did not play a part. ‘The department was responding to a call for service, there wasn’t a racial element to it,’ Pols said.
In a statement, Wyoming Police said the officers responded to a 911 call from a neighbor reporting a break-in, and that police were aware the home was burglarized a week earlier.
Police said they arrested a suspect who was charged with unlawful entry after that incident, but the 911 caller indicated Sunday that the suspect had returned.
‘When the officers arrived, there were people inside of the residence in question,’ the statement said. ‘Officers asked the individuals to come out of the house and placed them in handcuffs per department protocol. After listening to the individuals’ explanation for why they were in the house, officers immediately removed the handcuffs.’
‘The Wyoming Department of Public Safety takes emergency calls such as this seriously and officers rely on their training and department policy in their response,’ the statement added.
Despite police insistence that it was just standard protocol, Brown said the incident will effect how he does his job.
‘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 said. ‘Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.’
Wyoming, Michigan, has a population of just over 75,000 people, and 7.8 percent are black.