(Trends Wide) — A father, son, and their black real estate agent filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Wyoming, Michigan, the Wyoming police chief, and six police officers after police ordered them to leave the home they were visiting to be handcuffed.
On August 1, real estate agent, Eric Brown, was showing a house to his client, Roy Thorne, and his 15-year-old son, Samuel, when the police responded to a call from a neighbor, he showed up at the house. and he ordered those inside to come out with their hands up and handcuffed them.
All were released shortly after.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, seeks unspecified damages on five counts, alleging that six police officers violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights, including illegal detention and the excessive use of force, as well as violations of equal protection. Other charges include assault and battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The city of Wyoming, the six officers involved and the police chief are all charged.
A city spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit on Friday, telling Trends Wide: “The city of Wyoming does not comment on pending litigation.”
Trends Wide has not been able to determine whether the chief of police or the other six officers have legal representation to comment on their behalf. Trends Wide has also contacted the South Kent Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, but has received no response.
How the incident happened
The lawsuit follows an incident that occurred on August 1, when a neighbor called authorities reporting that a suspect, who had been arrested at the property a week earlier for trespassing, had returned to the scene in the same car, according to a timeline previously published by the Wyoming Department of Public Safety.
In the audio of the call issued by Wyoming police in August, the caller is heard telling the dispatch that a “young black man” had been arrested at the home the previous week. Police said it was a different person than the one who called in the initial incident, but “the person who called was aware of the previous arrest and had seen the arrested individual and his vehicle.” The landlord had asked the caller to keep an eye on the home, police said.
A Wyoming agent contacted the caller to clarify that it was the same suspect and vehicle from the previous incident. The caller confirmed yes, police said.
However, the caller made a mistake. Brown was giving Thorne and his son a tour of the home after scheduling the visit online the day before, Brown explained to officers, according to body camera images released by police.
Images captured by police cameras and body cameras showed officers arriving and ordering the three to leave the house with their hands in the air. They left the house one by one, following the orders of the agents. They were both handcuffed, and Thorne and her teenage son were briefly placed in the back seats of two different police cars.
All three were released without incident after Brown explained that he was a real estate agent. Officers are heard in the footage explaining that the house had been broken into the previous week, acknowledging that this appeared to be a “misunderstanding.” Officers removed Thorne and his son’s handcuffs, and they are heard to apologize.
The lawsuit attributes the way the plaintiffs were treated to the fact that they are black, saying: “If the plaintiffs had not been African-American men, they would not have been held at gunpoint, they would not have been detained, and they would not have been handcuffed.” .
Two officers drew their firearms during the incident, Wyoming police said previously, noting that this is standard protocol when responding to a “reported ongoing home invasion with multiple people inside a home.”
Additionally, the lawsuit claims that officers had evidence that neither Brown, Thorne, nor their son were the individual who had been arrested the week before because their cars and license plates did not match those of the previous suspect.
In August, the Wyoming Department of Public Safety said it had conducted an internal review and concluded that “Race played no role in our officers’ treatment of people, and our officers responded appropriately.”