A Black real estate agent and his clients filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 1 against police in Wyoming, Mich., after officers handcuffed them and ordered the three Black men to leave the property they were viewing.
On August 1, the agent, Eric Brown, was showing a home to Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son. That’s when officers, responding to a call from a suspicious neighbor, arrived and detained them.
According to CNN, the civil rights lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, names the city of Wyoming, the police chief and six officers as defendants. It alleges that the police unlawfully detained them, used excessive force and violated their equal protection rights.
Additionally, the lawsuit accused the police of assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. It seeks unspecified damages.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, the trial lawyer involved in high-profile cases including George Floyd, joined Ven Johnson Law on the case, Grand Rapids, Mich., station WZZM reported.
“These men violated NO laws, yet treated them like criminals!” Crump tweeted on Oct. 9.
Wyoming city officials declined to answer CNN’s questions about the case, citing its practice of “not commenting on pending litigation.”
In earlier comments to Grand Rapids station WOOD, the police said, “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.”
The officers uncuffed the men after Brown showed them his real estate agent credentials and apologized. But the three felt that their race influenced how the police handled the situation.
“The level of the response and the aggressiveness of the response was definitely a take-back. It really threw me back,” Brown said.