WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan realtor and his client were put in handcuffs during a showing Sunday after armed Wyoming police officers responded to the house on a report of a break-in.
The officers let them go as soon as they realized the mix-up, but realtor Eric Brown and his client Roy Thorne say they were racially profiled.
Brown said he was taking Thorne and his son through the home when he noticed a growing police presence outside.
“Roy looked outside and noticed there were officers there and were pointing guns toward the property,” Brown said.
Thorne identified the group to officers through an upstairs window. They said police then ordered them to exit the home in a single file with their hands in the air.
All three of them were put in handcuffs, including Thorne’s 15-year-old son.
“They keep their guns drawn on us until all of us were in cuffs,” Thorne said. “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.”
Once cuffed, Brown said he had the chance to explain, showing officers his credentials as the real estate agent showing the house.
The Wyoming Police Department says officers immediately removed the handcuffs after learning what the men were doing at the house.
“That officer came back and apologized again, but at the same time, the damage is done,” Thorne said. “My son was a little disturbed. He hasn’t seen anything like that … he’s not going to forget this.”
According to Wyoming police, officers were responding to a 911 call from a neighbor reporting a break-in at the home.
“Officers were aware that a previous burglary had occurred at this same address on July 24 and that a suspect was arrested and charged for unlawful entry during that incident,” Capt. Timothy Pols said in a statement to WOOD-TV. “The caller indicated that the previously arrested suspect had returned and again entered the house.”
Pols said placing the individuals in handcuffs was in line with department protocol.
Even so, Brown and Thorne feel race was at the heart of it. Brown said he also thinks police would have responded differently if they had been white.
“The level of the response and the aggressiveness of the response was definitely a take-back. It really threw me back,” Brown said.
WOOD-TV spoke with Pols over the phone Monday about the allegations of racial profiling.
“The department was responding to a call for service, there wasn’t a racial element to it,” Pols said.
Though the incident lasted only a few moments, Brown said it has left a lasting impact.
“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 said. “Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”
Full Statement from the Wyoming Police Department:
On August 1, our officers responded to a 911 call from a neighbor reporting that a house was being broken into. Officers were aware that a previous burglary had occurred at this same address on July 24 and that a suspect was arrested and charged for unlawful entry during that incident. The caller indicated that the previously arrested suspect had returned and again entered the house. When the officers arrived, there were people inside of the residence in question. Officers asked the individuals to come out of the house and placed them in handcuffs per department protocol. After listening to the individuals’ explanation for why they were in the house, officers immediately removed the handcuffs. The Wyoming Department of Public Safety takes emergency calls such as this seriously and officers rely on their training and department policy in their response.Capt. Timothy Pols