By Dakin Andone, Jennifer Henderson and Amanda Watts, CNN
A Black father, his son, and their Black real estate agent have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Wyoming, Michigan, the Wyoming police chief and six police officers after they were ordered by police officers out of the home they were touring and handcuffed.
The real estate agent, Eric Brown, was showing a home to his client, Roy Thorne, and his 15-year-old son, Samuel, on August 1, when police, responding to a neighbor’s call, showed up at the house, ordered those inside to leave with their hands in the air and handcuffed them.
They were all released soon after.
The lawsuit, filed October 1 in US District Court for the Western District of Michigan, seeks unspecified damages on five counts, claiming six police officers violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights, including unlawful detainment and excessive force, as well as violations of equal protection. Other counts 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 named as defendants.
A city spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday, telling CNN, “The City of Wyoming does not comment on pending litigation.”
CNN has been unable to determine if the police chief or the six other officers have legal representation to comment on their behalf. CNN has also reached out to the South Kent Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police but has not heard back.
The lawsuit stems from an incident on August 1, when a neighbor called authorities reporting that a suspect arrested at the property a week prior for unlawful entry had returned to the scene in the same car, according to a timeline previously released by the Wyoming Department of Public Safety.
In audio of the call released by Wyoming police in August, the caller is heard telling dispatch that a “young Black man” had been arrested at the house the week before. Police said it was a different caller from the initial incident, but “the caller was aware of the previous arrest and had seen the arrested individual and his vehicle,” and had been asked by the homeowner to watch the house.
A Wyoming officer contacted the caller to clarify that it was the same suspect and vehicle from the previous incident. The caller confirmed it was, police said.
The caller was mistaken, however. Brown was giving Thorne and his son a tour of the home after scheduling the visit online the day before, Brown would explain to the officers, according to body camera footage released by police.
Footage captured by police dashcams and body cameras showed the officers arriving and ordering the three out of the house with their hands in the air. They left the home one by one, following the officers’ orders. They were each handcuffed, and Thorne and his teenage son were briefly placed in the back seats of separate patrol vehicles.
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 week before, acknowledging this appeared to be a “misunderstanding.” The officers removed the handcuffs from Thorne and his son and are heard apologizing.
The lawsuit attributes the way the plaintiffs were treated to the fact they are Black, saying, “Had the Plaintiffs not been African American men, they would not have been held at gun point, would not have been detained, and would not have been handcuffed.”
Two officers unholstered their firearms during the incident, the Wyoming police said previously, noting that this is standard protocol when officers respond to a “reported home invasion in progress with multiple individuals inside a home.”
Additionally, the lawsuit claims the officers had evidence that neither Brown, Thorne or his son were the individual that had been arrested the week before because their cars and their license plates did not match the previous suspect’s.
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 the individuals, and our officers responded appropriately.”
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