On August 1, Keller Williams agent Eric Brown was touring the upstairs of a home on Sharon Avenue SW in Wyoming, Michigan, with client Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son, who are also Black. The next thing they noticed was that numerous police officers had gathered outside the property in response to a 911 call from a neighbor.
“Roy looked outside and noticed there were officers there and were pointing guns toward the property,” Brown told local news outlet WOOD, which first reported the story. Brown and Thorne called out identifying themselves from an upstairs window and were told to leave the house with their hands in the air.
Brown, Thorne and even Thorne’s 15-year-old son were all placed in handcuffs. While handcuffed, Brown showed his real estate credentials and the three of them were eventually let go. But both Brown and Thorne described the embarrassment of being treated like criminals and racially profiled in front of a child.
“The level of the response and the aggressiveness of the response was definitely a takeback, it really threw me back,” Brown told WOOD. He added, “Am I just automatically the criminal? Because that’s pretty much how we were treated in that situation.”
The Wyoming Police Department denied that race played a factor in their response and said they followed protocol after a recent burglary at the same address led to an arrest and charge of unlawful entry on July 24. The Department could not be reached by Inman for comment.
“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,” the department said in a statement to the press. “The response to this incident was shaped around the information available to officers at the time.”
Over the years, Black real estate agents have frequently drawn attention to being treated with suspicion and sometimes even violence from both neighbors and police while doing their jobs.
In December 2020, a Compass agent and real estate photographer in Arlington, Virginia, filed a racial profiling complaint after being interrogated in front of a client while taking pictures on the job. In 2018, a situation similar to what happened to Brown and Thorne played out in Cincinnati and resulted in the agent suing the city.
While some incidents make national news and ignite discussions around racism, many others fizzle out and fail to bring about systemic change.
“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.”