A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Black real estate agent who was held at gunpoint with his client and 15-year-old son by the police in Wyoming, Michigan, in 2021.
According to MLive, the judge also dismissed claims against the city of Wyoming and police Chief Kimberly Koster.
U.S. District Judge Hala Jarbou issued an opinion on Feb. 28 in Lansing dismissing the lawsuit. Brown, who is Black, was meeting with his client, Roy Thorne, who is also Black, in August 2021 to show him a vacant house he was selling on Sharon Avenue SW.
One week earlier, a Black squatter had illegally entered the house and been arrested. A neighbor called the police after seeing Brown, Thorne and his teenage son enter the home and said the squatter was back and that “two other males showed up and all three individuals had now entered the house.”
Brown gave his client and his son, Samuel, a tour of the home before Thorne noticed Wyoming police officers outside surrounding the home with their guns drawn. The realtor and Thorne shared their story with WOODTV 8 News just after the incident.
“Roy looked outside and noticed there were officers there and were pointing guns toward the property,” said Brown. “The level of the response and the aggressiveness of the response was definitely a takeback, it really threw me back.”
The two men and the teenager were instructed to exit the home single file with their hands up and were held at gunpoint until they were all handcuffed.
“They keep their guns drawn on us until all of us were in cuffs,” added Thorne. “So, that was a little traumatizing I guess because, under the current climate of things, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Samuel said that he was afraid during the incident, which he said went from zero to 100 very quickly.
“I had no idea why they were all down there at that time,” said Samuel. “It went from, ‘Dad, there’s cops outside,’ to ‘come outside with your hands up.’ That was kind of like, just from zero to 100.”
The two men and the teenager were let go after Brown showed his credentials to the police, who then apologized. Brown and Thorne filed a lawsuit in October of 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan claiming their civil rights were violated. The lawsuit also claimed that the police detained them unlawfully, used excessive force and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
Jarbou said that the five officers who responded to the break-in call had qualified immunity and probable cause to detain the three due to the 911 call.
“This is not a rare and obvious case where the unlawfulness of the individual Defendants’ conduct is sufficiently clear,” said Jarbou. The judge added that because one of the police officers who responded to the call, Logan Wieber, had eyewitness information that “the Plaintiffs” were breaking and entering the house, probable cause had been established.
“Probable cause in this case stems not only from a reasonably trustworthy eyewitness but also from the corroboration of the eyewitness’s assertions by the individual officers on the scene,” wrote Jarbou. “The fact that Wieber did not recognize Plaintiffs once they exited the home weakens but does not defeat the existence of probable cause.”
Thorne had previously noted that the handcuffs used on him were too tight, but Jarbou said that the police did not use excessive force because the police officers with their guns drawn did not know if the plaintiffs had weapons, and the plaintiffs could not prove they were treated differently than any individuals of another race in a similar situation.