Black realtor and client wrongly accused of break-in during home showing, win lawsuit

Elise Solé

Two black men — a real estate agent and his buyer — won a lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati for accusing them of breaking into a home.

On Thursday, City Manager Patrick Duhaney made a public statement to real estate agent Jerry Isham and his client Anthony Edwards, who were handcuffed and illegally searched in November 2018 during a property showing.

“The city regrets this extremely unfortunate and unnecessary situation,” said Duhaney. "Mr. Isham and Mr. Edwards did nothing wrong. We have reached a settlement in the amount of $151,000 that includes voluntary training with police and the Board of Realtors. Further, we are in the process of implementing implicit bias training for all city employees. We sincerely apologize.”

The men filed a lawsuit on Monday against the city and three police officers, and on Thursday, they settled for an individual sum of $75,500.

In November, Isham, a realtor of 32 years, met Edwards in Price Hill neighborhood to show him a prospective home. Isham’s 9-year-old son waited in the car. According to Isham’s attorney Brian Shrive, after the men entered using a key from a lockbox, nine police officers appeared outside and demanded the men step outside with their hands up.

“From the get-go, one officer had her weapon drawn,” Shrive tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

In one social media video, a female officer yells, “Hands up!” as the men exit the home. “...Tell your friend to come out too, hands up.”

Then men explain that they have an appointment to view the home. But a male officer says, “People saw you were forcing your way in. That’s why we’re here.”

A former police officer who lives down the street had been visiting a neighbor and called 911 on the men. “No, no, no look,” says Edwards. “They just white people calling the goddamn police doing this bullsh** right now. Man, I ‘ain’t even going to buy this house.”

With the knowledge that Isham is a realtor, the officer instructs him, “Turn around. Until we can confirm, turn around.” She also handcuffed him.

Edwards says, “If we was white, they wouldn’t have did this.”

The officer digs up Isham’s business card and driver’s license. He is patted down and his pockets are searched.

Shrive tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the officers can conduct pat-downs and handcuff suspects. “But the police performed an illegal search, which is a violation of Mr. Isham’s constitutional rights,” he says, adding that he suspects the 911 caller was “motivated by racism.”

According to Shrive, dash-and-body cameras show the 911 caller, who claimed he was armed with a gun, hovering around the scene. “This was an attempt to intimidate an African-American man from buying a home in a white neighborhood,” Shrive tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And it worked, as the caller was was delighted with himself. Mission accomplished.”

Edwards and Isham were handcuffed for about five minutes, says Shrive, then released, uncharged. “Mr. Isham had to show the officers how to lock up the home because they couldn’t figure out the lockbox,” says Shrive.

Shrive alleges that some of the video evidence from the police had been edited and seven clips were deleted.

“The city settled because they wanted to make this right,” Shrive tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “As hurtful and unnecessary as this was, we’re excited for this opportunity for growth.”

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