September 26, 2021

Michigan Police Department Say Officers Were Justified in Holding Black Real Estate Agent, Potential Buyer at Gunpoint

Terrell Jermaine Starr August 2021

A Michigan police department stands by its officers who pulled their guns on a Black real estate agent, a potential home buyer and his 15-year-old son.

The Wyoming Public Safety Department said when officers surrounded the Wyoming home and demanded that the three exit the home after receiving a call of a home invasion, the officers acted appropriately, per NBC News.

“After a thorough internal review of the actions of each of our public safety officers who responded to this incident, we have concluded race played no role in our officers’ treatment of the individuals who were briefly detained, and our officers responded appropriately,” the statement said.

Eric Brown, 46, of Grand Rapids Real Estate, sees it differently. As The Root previously reported, Brown was giving Roy Thorne and Thorne’s son, Sammy, a tour of the home in Wyoming Sunday afternoon when he saw a cop circling the property with his gun drawn. Brown has access to the house key and lets himself in, because, well, he works as a real estate agent. The issue is that, a week earlier, another man was detained on suspicion of having illegally entered the home. A neighbor called the cops when they saw Brown enter the house, telling the dispatcher that the man was “back there again. His car’s sitting out front.”

The suspect’s car, which was a black Mercedes, resembled Brown’s black Genesis, according to the cops. Five cop cars showed up and police cuffed Brown, Thorne and Thorne’s son.

All three males are Black.

Here is more from NBC News:

Bodycam video shows the three exiting the home with their hands in the air, surrounded by patrol cars blocking the street. Brown said he believed he, Thorne and Sammy were being racially profiled.

After Brown convinced them he was a real estate agent by having an officer take out his wallet to find his business card and showing them how he had retrieved a key from a lockbox at the home, the officers removed the handcuffs and apologized, he said.

Brown said he feared for their lives, adding that Sammy was “clearly terrified and traumatized by the situation.”

“I went from being afraid for my life to shellshocked to ‘this is not right’ to now slightly angry,” he said. “I felt definitely guilty of breaking into this house. And I had the keys to it.”

The country is in a time of racial reckoning, heightened by a summer of protests against systemic racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Brown said he and Thorne are speaking with a lawyer.

But Wyoming police said a review found that the officers did nothing wrong. Officials said their actions were in “accordance with department policy and training.”

Brown later told NBC News that he believed the department’s response was inappropriate. The police captain “released that statement without enough initial due diligence to substantiate it,” he said. “Basically, she had say to something. She’s going to have to answer some really hard questions here soon.”

The Public Safety Director Kim Koster has reached out to Brown, and police are supposed to be arranging a meeting.

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