A Black realtor was showing a house to a Black man and his 15-year-old son in a Michigan suburb when they became surrounded by police officers with their guns drawn.
It’s hard for Roy Thorne, the father in the situation, to believe that the actions of those officers were not racially motivated. “I knew once they surrounded the home they were preparing for a standoff,” the father, Roy Thorne, told CNN’s Don Lemon. “And so my instincts told me we need to get out of here, we need to get to where they can see that we’re not a threat.”
Apparently a neighbor called authorities, saying a suspect arrested at the property a week prior had returned to the scene, according to the Wyoming, Michigan, Department of Public Safety. But the caller mistakenly identified realtor Eric Brown, who was giving Thorne and his 15-year-old son Samuel a tour of the home in the community, for the suspect.
Police ordered the realtor and the father and son out of the home with their hands up and then handcuffed the trio, placing Thorne and his son in the back seats of separate patrol vehicles, as seen in footage released by Wyoming police.
All three were eventually released without incident.
“I was worried,” Thorne said, “but I was just more concerned about getting my son out of that situation and getting us all out of there.”
When asked if he felt they had been racially profiled, Brown said, “In that moment, it certainly felt that way.”
Brown said he found it difficult to justify the level of force used, describing it as a “tactical” response.
The Wyoming Department of Public Safety released a statement last week saying it had conducted an internal review and concluded “race played no role in our officers’ treatment of the individuals, and our officers responded appropriately.”
“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 statement said.
The incident still left a negative impact on 15-year-old Samuel, who told Don Lemon he felt “confusion and shock and fear … because I had no idea why they were all down there at that time.”
“It went from, ‘Dad, there’s cops outside,’ to ‘come outside with your hands up,’” Samuel said. “That was kind of like, just from zero to 100.”
Two officers unholstered their firearms during the incident, as mentioned in the statement from Wyoming police — one who was moving around the property’s perimeter of the house and one who was giving cover near the front.
“When responding to a reported home invasion in progress with multiple individuals inside a home, this is standard protocol,” Wyoming police said in their statement.
Police Chief Kimberly Koster has reached out to meet with the three of them to talk about the incident, Wyoming police said.
Brown, who had to explain to police that he was a realtor as a life-saving measure, told CNN a time has not been decided, but they want to have that conversation with the chief and with their own counsel present, adding he feels it’s “critical” that Samuel is there, too.
“Clearly,” Brown said, “we want some reform and some change here.”
Thorne also had a message for the neighbor who called police.
“We’re just like you. We occupy the same space. We do the same things. We go to the same places,” Thornes said. “And if you see a crime, report a crime. But if you see people — Black people, any minority — don’t report people doing normal things,” Thorne said. “You do that, you don’t realize that you can change their life or have their life taken, just you making a phone call. In this instance, it could have been three. You could’ve changed my life, changed my son’s life.”
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