The city and the cops are being sued over assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress among other things.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of race-motivated violence that some readers may find distressing
A Black father, his son, and their Black real estate agent are suing Wyoming police after they were handcuffed for touring a house they were looking at. Roy Thorne, and his 15-year-old son, Samuel, were looking at a house they were interested in, along with their real estate agent, Eric Brown, when police officers arrived and ordered them out of the house before handcuffing them, reported CNN. They were asked to put their hands in the air as the cops escorted them out of the house. The cops were responding to a call by a neighbor and the cops let them go later. The incident happened on August 1.
They have now filed a lawsuit against the city of Wyoming, Michigan, the Wyoming police chief, and six police officers. The real estate agent along with the family filed the lawsuit on October 1 in US District Court for the Western District of Michigan seeking 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. Some of the 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.
There had been an unlawful entry at the property a week ago, and the neighbor suspecting the same person had returned alerted the cops leading to the family and the real estate agent being arrested, said the authorities. In an audio call released by the Wyoming police in August, the caller can be heard telling dispatch that a "young Black man" had been arrested at the house the week before and had appeared to have returned in the same car. Police noted that this was a different called as compared to the one who reported the initial incident but added that "the caller was aware of the previous arrest and had seen the arrested individual and his vehicle." The neighbor who called the cops on the African American family was reportedly deputized by the homeowner to watch the house.
A Wyoming officer had reportedly contacted the caller to clarify if it was indeed the same suspect and vehicle from the previous incident. The cops say the caller confirmed it was. The caller was certainly wrong but certainly not the first time a Black man has been mistaken for another. The cops arrived and told Roy Thorne, his 15-year-old son Samuel, and realtor Eric Brown to walk out of the building with their hands in the air before asking them to turn around and handcuffing them. Roy Thorne and his teenage son were also briefly placed in seats of separate patrol vehicles.
The footage of the incident was found on the bodycam of the officers and also released to the public. The cops let them go after real estate agent Eric Brown explained to the cops that they had been a misunderstanding and that they were just looking at the house. After the cops let them go, they can be heard trying to explain to the family and the real estate agent that there had been a break-in incident a week before and the whole incident had been a "misunderstanding." The cops can be heard apologizing to Roy Thorne, his son, and Eric Brown.
The lawsuit states that they had been treated the way they had only because they were Black. "Had the Plaintiffs not been African American men, they would not have been held at gunpoint, would not have been detained, and would not have been handcuffed," reads the lawsuit. Wyoming police defended their officers holding firearms claiming that it was standard protocol in cases where a "reported home invasion is in progress with multiple individuals inside a home." The lawsuit also adds that the police officers had evidence that the car license plates did not match that of the previous incident's suspect.