A federal lawsuit alleges that officers violated the civil rights of a black real estate agent, his client and his client’s son when they handcuffed three people on a home tour. Michigan police have previously described it as an “unfortunate” misunderstanding.
Real estate agents Eric Brown, Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son Samuel filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan’s Wyoming, Mission, Wyoming Police Chief and six police officers involved in the Aug. 1 incident in early October, beginning when officers responded to a neighbor’s call.
Neighbors believed a man who had previously been arrested for illegal entry into the home had returned. The suspect was driving a black Mercedes but officers found only two cars, a black Hyundai Genesis sedan and a black Chevrolet Malibu.
Brown, Thorne, and Thorne’s son, all black men, were inspecting the property, and the officers, two of them, pulled out their guns and began to gather outside. Thorne’s 15-year-old son, Samuel, quickly emerges from the basement and announces that he can see the officers around the house.
Brown and Thorne said they both felt “sheer terror” when they saw officers heading home. The three were briefly handcuffed before being released.
“I thought, ‘We’re going to shoot. It’s really bad, going really fast,'” Brown told USA Today earlier.
Thorne, who is an Army veteran, said he shared Brown’s fears, especially for his 15-year-old son.
“I was ready to shoot or kill myself,” Thorne said. “I can’t get it out of my head. I’m going to replay that walk up the stairs.”
NYC Investigation:The FBI raided the New York City Police Union’s office, citing “ongoing investigations.”
‘Mere Terror’:Black real estate agents, clients handcuffed by Michigan police during a home tour
Officers instructed the three of them to come out with their hands raised. They were handcuffed and kept in separate police vehicles.
After Brown proved he was a real estate agent, all three were released. An officer told the men it was a “big misunderstanding”, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that neither Brown, Thorne nor his son were driving the black Mercedes, described as the suspect’s car. None of their license plates matched the suspects.
The lawsuit alleges that if the three had not been black, they would not have been taken at gunpoint and handcuffed.
After reviewing body camera footage, Michigan police found no role in the actions of designated race officers.
“We conclude that the nation briefly played no role in the conduct of our officers with the detainees,” the police statement said. “While it is unfortunate that innocent people were handcuffed, our officers responded rationally and in accordance with departmental policy based on the information available to them at the time.”
The Wyoming Police Department did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
The case is being tried by a jury and the plaintiffs are accused of violating civil rights, assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentional mental anguish.
Contributed by: N’dea Yancey-Bragg
Follow Gabriella Miranda on Twitter: itsgabbymiranda