Black Real Estate Agent and Clients Handcuffed at House Viewing

Black Real Estate Agent and Clients Handcuffed at House Viewing

By Alyssa Lukpat and Eduardo Medina—Aug. 8, 2021

The house on Sharon Avenue in Wyoming, Mich., was supposed to be another option for Eric Brown, a real estate agent, to show to his client.

Instead, the visit to the property became one of the most traumatic experiences for Mr. Brown and his client, Roy Thorne, who are Black, after the police converged on the house during the showing on Aug. 1, they said in interviews on Sunday.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Thorne were looking around upstairs when Mr. Thorne’s 15-year-old son, Samuel Thorne, sprinted up to them from the first floor and said there were “a lot of police officers outside,” said Mr. Brown, 46.

That’s when Mr. Thorne, 45, looked out a window and saw a police officer with a gun drawn, hiding behind a tree, Mr. Brown said. Mr. Thorne called out to the officer, who pointed a gun at him, both men said.

The officer instructed the two men and the teenager to come downstairs and out the door with their hands raised, Mr. Brown said.

“I told myself, ‘If they shoot me first, they’ll stop there and won’t hit my son,’” said Mr. Thorne, an Army veteran. “In that moment, I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was just afraid it was going to hurt.”

Police officers handcuffed Mr. Thorne, Mr. Brown and his son, according to a statement from the Department of Public Safety in Wyoming, Mich. The city, which is near Grand Rapids, has a population of about 75,000 people, almost three-quarters of whom are white, according to 2019 census data. Less than 8 percent of the population is Black.

Mr. Brown said he told the officers that they could reach into his pocket and take out his real estate license. He explained that he had gotten into the house because real estate agents are given access to the keys.

The officers let the real estate agent and his clients go when they realized that no one had broken into the house, the statement said. About 20 minutes earlier, a neighbor had called the police to report that someone had entered the house, the police said.

Someone was arrested a week earlier after breaking into the house, the statement said. The neighbor thought Mr. Brown’s car, a black Hyundai Genesis, looked like a black Mercedes-Benz sedan that had been parked in the driveway at the time of the previous arrest, according to a recording of the call provided by the police.

The officers told Mr. Brown about the vehicles, and, according to body camera footage obtained by WOOD-TV, he replied, “Yeah, and my car definitely looks like a Mercedes.”

“I was both being true and being sarcastic,” Mr. Brown said on Sunday.

“You have a better day,” one of the officers at the scene told the real estate agent and his clients, according to the footage. “Sorry for the confusion.”

Read more at The New York Times.

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