A Black real estate agent, his client, and his client’s son were handcuffed by police earlier this month while viewing a vacant home in Michigan after a 911 caller reported a break-in. The men have criticized police in Wyoming, Michigan, for the aggressiveness of their response — but department officials say the officers followed protocol.
Body camera footage of the August 1 incident shows police arriving at the home and telling the men to exit single file with their hands in the air. The real estate agent, his client, and his client’s son all exit the house individually and walk across the lawn before they are handcuffed by officers.
The footage captures the agent, Eric Brown, telling the officers that he’s a realtor with Keller Williams. The officers told Brown that the house had recently been broken into, and that a neighbor called police because they believed the men were breaking in. After Brown shows the officers his realtor’s license and the key to the home, the officers remove the men’s handcuffs and release them.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” an officer can be heard saying to Brown.
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” Brown replied.
In an interview with a local Grand Rapids outlet, Brown criticized the way police responded to the incident.
“The level of the response and the aggressiveness of the response was definitely a take back, it really threw me back,” he said.
“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 added. “Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”
Brown’s client, Roy Thorne, also criticized the officers’ response.
“They keep their guns drawn on us until all of us were in cuffs,” Thorne told the outlet. “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.”
He also said the experience was traumatizing for his son.
“He hasn’t seen anything like that … he’s not going to forget this,” Thorne said.
The Wyoming Police Department defended the officers’ response in a statement to CBS News. The department said the a man had previously been arrested for unlawful entry into the home on July 24, and that the 911 caller told police that the same man had returned to the home in the same car on August 1. The department said officers “immediately” removed the men’s handcuffs after realizing that they were touring the home, and said a sergeant apologized to the men for the misunderstanding.
The department also responded to criticism from the community that racial profiling played a role in the incident, writing, “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.”
“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 department said.