Not long after entering a Cincinnati home for a viewing, a Realtor and his client, both of whom are black, were handcuffed, held at gunpoint and questioned by the police in front of neighbors.
As first reported by local news outlet Cincinnati.com, Jerry Isham, a Realtor with the local Movement Realty brokerage, and his client, Anthony Edwards, have filed a lawsuit over how they were treated by the Cincinnati police against the city. Filed on Monday, the lawsuit relates to an incident that took place on Nov. 17, 2018.
According to Isham, he and Edwards had used a lockbox to enter a house at Cincinnati’s 1093 Morado Drive for a viewing — Edwards had been considering buying the home. They had gone through the living room, the kitchen and the basement when they saw flashing lights and police officers burst through the door.
“I didn’t notice the police right away because I thought something had happened outside and was looking at the lights,” Isham told Inman. “Then they started hollering ‘Hands up!’ and telling us to get out.”
As they would discover later, retired police officer Thomas Branigan called 911 after seeing them enter the house. According to the 16-page lawsuit, Branigan said that he saw “two black male subjects force the front door open” in the mostly white neighborhood.
“It’s not an open house today,” Branigan reportedly told 911. “They pulled on the front door and forced it open.”
As per the lawsuit, police officers Rose Valentino, David Knox and Dustin Peet responded to the call and started questioning the men.
Body camera footage that was later posted on YouTube by an unidentified individual shows the officers entering the house, yelling at the men to get out even as Isham explains that he is a Realtor who is showing the home with a client.
Isham said that he could not stop thinking about his 9-year-old son, who was waiting for him to finish the viewing and could see the incident from the street. But he also felt embarrassed in front of his client, who was getting angry about getting detained. He said that at no point did the officers explain why they needed to get out or what was happening.
“I’m startled,” Isham said. “My client is irate. He kept saying that he’s with his Realtor.”
One of the officers can be seen holding a drawn gun while another accuses them of playing “the race card.”
“It’s called being a good neighbor when you see someone going into a house,” one of the male officers in the video says before placing the men in handcuffs.
The female officer is also seen searching Isham’s pockets and repeatedly asking to see his real estate ID. After she pulled out his business cards and driver’s license, Isham and Edwards were let go without any charges.
The incident comes at a time when instances of people calling the police on African-Americans for doing everyday things like waiting for friends outside a building or taking a nap in a Yale student lounge has been making national headlines. The problem has also been cropping up in the real estate industry — last year, a white neighbor called the police on a black real estate investor who was inspecting a Memphis property for work.
Isham, who is also a member of National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers, said that the incident sheds a broader light on how African American real estate professionals are often treated by law enforcement officers. He was particularly upset that, even after the police discovered his business cards, nobody admitted that they had made a mistake or treated him unfairly.
“I’ve been selling real estate for 32 years,” Isham said. “On that day, I was not treated like a professional.”
Local attorney Chris Finney is representing Edwards and Isham. The City of Cincinnati does not comment on ongoing litigation and did not respond to Inman’s request for information.
Isham said that, through the lawsuit and subsequent media coverage, he hopes to prevent a repetition of other incidents like this.
“My hope is that no real estate professional is treated the way I was that day,” he said.
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