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“Guilty while Black”


In the latest incident of “Guilty while Black”, a Michigan Realtor and his client were placed in handcuffs last week as he showed a home for sale. Realtor Eric Brown and prospective homebuyer Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son came away from the experience shaken and believing they had been racially profiled by the police and the neighbors who phoned them.

Brown first noticed a large gathering of police outside while he was in the middle of pitching the home to Thorne and his son. “Roy looked outside and noticed there were officers, and they were pointing guns toward the property.” Footage from the dashboard camera in one of the officers’ vehicles showed Officers from the Wyoming Police Department, just south of Grand Rapids, arriving on the scene and ordering the people inside the home to come out with their hands in the air. At least two officers are seen approaching the home with their guns drawn. Officers handcuffed each of them and placed Thorne and his 15-year-old son in the back seats of separate patrol vehicles.

The realtor and his clients were eventually released after the realtor demanded that officers check his wallet for his credentials. Officers freed the three —who are Black — after realizing the mix-up. ‘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.”

Police claimed that a neighbor called 911 to report a break-in. Officers explained to Brown, who was driving a Hyundai Genesis on the day of the incident, that a person who has a similar car to his had been arrested for breaking into the home on July 24. A concerned neighbor thought it was the same car, which led to the neighbor calling police about a possible break-in. “Our other officer arrested someone here a couple days ago who had a black Mercedes,” an officer said. Brown responded sarcastically saying, “My car, a Hyundai Genesis, definitely looks like a black Mercedes.”

Brown and Thorne came away from the experience believing they had been racially profiled. Asked if he had a message for the neighbor who called police, Thorne told CNN, “We’re just like you. We occupy the same space. We do the same things. We go to the same places. And if you see a crime, report a crime. But if you see people — Black people, any minority — don’t report people doing normal things. You do that, you don’t realize that you can change their life or have their life taken, just you making a phone call. In this instance, it could have been three. You could’ve changed my life, changed my son’s life,” he said.

Expert reports on this type of treatment from law enforcement reveal that after the handcuffs are removed, police encounters can have a long effect on Black people’s mental well-being. “

Wyoming Police Department statement on the incident reads:

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.

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