Police handcuffed a Black real estate agent and the Black clients he was showing around a home for sale in Wyoming, Mich., after a neighbour called authorities to report “suspicious” activity at the property.
Local police insisted afterward that there was no racial profiling involved in the incident, which played out on a quiet street around 2:15 p.m. on Aug. 1. Instead, they said it was an innocent case of a neighbour mistaking one black car for another, after a break-in at the home a week earlier.
Realtor Eric D. Brown later told local media that it was “traumatizing” to see five police cars show up outside the home while he was simply doing his job.
Brown was showing a client and the client’s teenaged son, 15, around the house when he heard police shouting from outside. Five patrol cars had surrounded the home, and one officer had his gun drawn while another shouted out instructions.
“Come out with your hands up!” the officers shouted. “One at a time!”
Brown and his clients complied and all three of them were handcuffed at the scene.
“At this time you’re not under arrest,” an officer says in bodycam video released by police. “Neighbours are calling in that you’re breaking into the place.”
“I’m a realtor,” Brown replies, moments after he’s been handcuffed. He then directs the officers to the realtor licence in his wallet, before demonstrating that he had used an electronic realtor’s keybox to enter the home in the first place.
Police eventually uncuffed the three individuals and apologized.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” one of them says in the video.
Authorities released the bodycam video and a lengthy statement about the incident this week, after they were accused of racially profiling the Black realtor and his clients.
Police explained that a suspect had broken into the home on the evening of July 24, and that they had seized a black Mercedes sedan upon arresting him.
One week later, Brown and his clients came to the showing in a black Chevrolet Malibu and a black Hyundai Genesis, which police say “looks similar to a Mercedes.”
Police say a neighbour recalled the earlier incident and reported the cars to the authorities.
Officials also acknowledged that an officer had his gun out during the encounter, but they say that was a standard procedure for providing cover.
Brown says he’s still getting over the incident.
“This is something we’ll never forget and it’s an unfortunate memory,” he told local broadcaster WOOD-TV.
He added that he’s spoken to police Chief Kim Koster, who told him that the officers didn’t know that they still had the break-in suspect’s black Mercedes in impound.
“That’s my point, they should (know),” Brown said. “You don’t show up in a tactical way to do that type of business, that we — the three of us, me, Roy, and Sammy — intended to do, which is to threaten us into submission. There was no ‘let’s understand this situation, let’s go a little bit further to make sure we don’t impact someone’s life or accidentally kill and shoot someone.’ That to me is disturbing.”
He added that he would’ve liked a chance to explain himself before being handcuffed on the job.
Brown’s prospective client, Roy Thorne, told WOOD-TV that he’s changed his mind about buying that house or any other since the incident.
Charlie Oppler, president of the National Association of Realtors, was not convinced that race wasn’t a factor.
“While, thankfully, neither Brown nor his clients were physically harmed in the incident, racial profiling — and the humiliation, indignity and trauma that comes with it — has no place in our country,” he said in a statement.