As fans, friends and family members honored the late Whitney Houston Saturday, rumors swirled about the man who wasn’t in attendance at the singer’s funeral: her ex-husband, Bobby Brown.
But buzz that he was turned away from Newark, N.J.’s New Hope Baptist Church isn’t true, Brown tells PEOPLE in a statement, and his absence was the result of a mix-up with security.
“My children and I were invited to the funeral of my ex-wife Whitney Houston,” Brown, 43, says. “We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions. I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us to move.”
The problem then escalated, he says, when security prevented him from seeing his daughter with Houston, Bobbi Kristina, who was briefly hospitalized after having a nervous breakdown last week.
“In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene,” he says. “My children are completely distraught over the events.”
Of Houston, whom he wed in 1992 and divorced in 2007 after a rocky, highly publicized relationship, he says he will “continue to pay my respects to my ex-wife the best way I know how.”
“This was a day to honor Whitney,” he adds of the singer, who died last week at 48. “I doubt Whitney would have wanted this to occur.”
Before Brown’s clarification, his presence (or lack thereof) was the topic of much debate and Twitter chat.
One onlooker saw the R&B singer outside the church. “He hugged his brother and then got in a car, and they drove him off,” the source told PEOPLE. “They wouldn’t allow him in.”
Reports of Brown inside the church also made headlines.
“He walked by Whitney’s casket and then came back up the isle,” HLN Tweeted. “His eyes were red, and his head was down.”
A relative told PEOPLE that Brown was indeed invited to the funeral and that Houston’s family knew he was attending and wanted to support his daughter.
“She wanted her dad to be there for her mom,” the relative said of Bobbi Kristina.
To re-watch the funeral, click here.
By Alison Schwartz and Debra Lewis-Boothman