GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The three Black men who were handcuffed by Wyoming police officers over the summer while viewing a home are suing the city of Wyoming and members of the department for their actions.
“Tragically Mr. Brown, Mr. Thorne, and Mr. Thorne’s teenage son on a Sunday afternoon, on a bright and beautiful sunny day, were accosted, if you will, by five [officers],” said Attorney Ven Johnson during a Zoom interview on Thursday. “They’re three African American men [who] were surrounded, if you will, at gunpoint by six or five police officers in Wyoming.”
Back on Aug. 1, a father, son and a realtor were viewing a house on Sharon Avenue in Wyoming when police officers appeared. They were dispatched to the house on a call of a squatter returning to it. Johnson said when they arrived, they drew their guns and then handcuffed the men.
“How about just knocking on the door and asking, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’” said Johnson, president of Johnson Law PLC. “That's exactly what should’ve happened. And, there’s no question they’ve should’ve admitted it. Wyoming, shame on you for not. This is absolute racism. At the very least implicit bias racism.”
This month, Johnson and his clients filed a lawsuit against the city of Wyoming and six members of the police department, including the chief.
The lawsuit alleges that the officers used excessive force and were racially profiled.
“My clients were absolutely devastated by this, and even worse, like they always say, the initial act, that’s bad. But it’s the cover-up that’s worse,” Johnson quoted. “Then when Wyoming comes out and makes a big public statement: ‘Oh, race had nothing to do with anything. Nothing happened here.’ That’s when [the clients] said, ‘Uh-huh, we’re not sitting back and doing nothing on this. Let’s go.’”
After the incident, the city of Wyoming released a statement, which stated in part:
“After a thorough internal review of the actions of each of our public safety officers who responded to this incident, we have concluded race played no role in our officers’ treatment of the individuals who were briefly detained, and our officers responded appropriately. While it is unfortunate that innocent individuals were placed in handcuffs, our officers responded reasonably and according to department policy based on the information available to them at the time.”
However, Johnson, who’s working with George Floyd's and Breonna Taylor’s attorney Ben Crump on this case, said he disagrees and believes the police knew they acted inappropriately.
“Just admit you screwed it up,” Johnson said. “Apologize and ask my clients to be a part of the solution as opposed to pretend like the whole thing didn’t happen and ‘Oh no, this wasn’t racism.’ C’mon.”
FOX 17 reached out to the city of Wyoming and the department for an interview or an updated statement. However, they declined, stating that they do not comment on pending litigation.
“They should’ve stepped up and done the right thing. They’re not, and that’s what led my clients to say, ‘Hey, Mr. Crump — my co-council Ben Crump — Ven Johnson, we ain’t taking this,” Johnson said. “This is wrong. We need to step up and make sure this never happens to anybody else.”