A federal lawsuit says officers violated the civil rights of a Black real estate agent, his client and his client’s son when they handcuffed the three individuals who were on a home tour. Michigan police have previously described it as an “unfortunate” misunderstanding.
Real estate agent Eric Brown, Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son Samuel, in early October filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Wyoming, Michigan, the Wyoming police chief and the six police officers involved in the Aug. 1 incident, which started when officers responded to a call from a neighbor.
The neighbor believed a person who had been previously arrested for unlawful entry into the house had returned. The suspect drove a a black Mercedes but the officers only found two vehicles, a black Hyundai Genesis sedan and a black Chevrolet Malibu.
As Brown, Thorne and Thorne’s son, all Black males, were touring the property, officers, two with their guns drawn, began gathering outside. Thorne’s 15-year old son, Samuel, quickly emerged from the basement and announced he’d seen officers surrounding the house.
Brown and Thorne said they both felt “sheer terror” as they saw the officers approach the home. The three individuals were briefly handcuffed and detained before being released.
“I thought, ‘We’re going to get shot. This is going to go really bad, really fast,'” Brown previously told USA TODAY.
Thorne, who is an Army Veteran, said he shared Brown’s fear, especially for his 15-year-old son.
“I prepared myself to get shot or killed,” Thorne said. “I can’t get it out of my head. I keep replaying that walk down the stairs.”
Officers ordered the three of them to come outside with their hands up. They were handcuffed and put in separate police cars.
After Brown proved he was a real estate agent, all three individuals were released. One of the officers told the men this was a “big misunderstanding,” according to the lawsuit. The suit states neither Brown, Thorne or his son were driving the black Mercedes described as the suspect’s vehicle. Neither of their license plates matched the suspect’s as well.
The lawsuit said if the three weren’t Black, they wouldn’t have been escorted by gun point and handcuffed the way they were.
After reviewing body camera footage, Michigan police determined race did not play a role in the officers actions.
“We have concluded race played no role in our officers’ treatment of the individuals who were briefly detained,” the police statement said. “While it is unfortunate that innocent individuals were placed in handcuffs, our officers responded reasonably and according to department policy based on the information available to them at the time.”
The Wyoming police department didn’t respond to USA TODAY’s request to comment.
The lawsuit requests a trial by jury and alleges violations of the plaintiffs’ civil rights, assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg
Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda