'Traumatizing' ordeal in West Michigan after real estate agent, client, and son wrongly accused of burglary

Police in west Michigan handcuffed a real estate agent, his client, and that man's 15-year-old son after a neighbor wrongly reported that the three Black people were breaking into a home.

The agent, Eric Brown, told WOOD-TV that the police response Aug. 1 in Wyoming, including two out of five officers who drew their guns, felt aggressive and "threw me back."

"I feel pretty anxious, or nervous or maybe even a little bit scared about what do I do to protect myself if I'm going to show a home and the authorities just get called on a whim like that," Brown said. "Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that's pretty much how we were treated in that situation."

The Wyoming Police Department defended the officers' actions and said they followed protocol for responding to a reported home invasion. The department said in a statement that Chief Kimberly Koster reached out to the three, offering to meet with them and any other family members.

Roy Thorne, Brown's client, called the experience in the Grand Rapids suburb "traumatizing" for him and his son.

The department released body camera footage that shows officers handcuffing them. One of the officers had his weapon out and pointed it at Thorne as he left the home in response to police commands.

Thorne said that officer apologized, "but at the same time, the damage is done."

"My son was a little disturbed, he hasn't seen anything like that . he's not going to forget this," he said. 

The footage also shows police put Thorne in the backseat of a squad car with the door open after handcuffing him. 

"Definitely not buying this place," Thorne says on the video, after explaining that he was visiting the home with his real estate agent.

Brown used his cellphone to show police that he scheduled an appointment online to take Thorne to the house and had an access code to get inside. Thorne's son was put in the backseat of another squad car briefly before the officer accompanying him was told to uncuff the teenager. 

Another Black man with a similar car to the real estate agent's vehicle was arrested after he went into the house without permission July 24, police said. That person also told police that he was interested in purchasing the house but was not with a real estate agent and didn't have the homeowner's permission to go inside. 

A neighbor saw Brown's car parked in front of the house on Aug. 1 and called police, wrongly reporting that the intruder had returned, the statement said. Brown's car is the same color as that first person's but a different make and model. 

"Somebody dropped the ball somewhere," one of the officers can be heard saying to another after Brown and Thorne explained why they were at the house.