- A Black Alabama pastor was arrested for obstruction of governmental operations when he refused to identify himself while watering his neighbors flowers.
- Now his lawyer says he’s suing the police department.
- Pastor Michael Jennings’ lawyer told Insider he believes his client’s civil rights were violated.
A Black Alabama pastor is planning to sue his local police department, which placed him under arrest while he was watering his neighbor’s flowers earlier this year, his lawyer told Insider.
Pastor Michael Jennings of Childersburg, Alabama, was watering his neighbor’s flowers on May 22, 2022 — hose in hand — when a Childersburg police officer approached him and said the department received a call about a suspicious person.
“I’m looking out for their house while they gone,” Jennings said in body camera footage obtained by Insider. “I’m watering their flowers.”
Body camera footage shows that when a police officer on the scene asked for identification, Jennings said he wouldn’t give it to them because he wasn’t committing a crime. As Jennings tried to walk away, officers put him in handcuffs, video shows.
The police department wouldn’t comment on the case further because of “pending litigation.”
Jennings’ lawyer, Harry Daniels, said the entire experience left Jennings “traumatized.”
“For this to happen to him, somebody who went their whole life trying to do right and help others … for this to happen to him, it hurt him deeply,” Daniels told Insider.
Officers can be heard repeatedly saying in body camera footage that the entire thing could have been “avoided” had Jennings produced identification. Daniels argues thatdidn’t require Jennings to identify himself because he wasn’t in a public place.
The person who called the police — a white woman who police say also refused to identify herself at first — eventually told officers her call was a mistake when she saw that the man she called about was Jennings, the body camera footage shows.
“They are friends, and they went out of town today, so he may be watering their flowers. It would be completely normal,” the woman says in the video.
Still, officers continued with their arrest. Body camera footage shows that Jennings’ wife and daughter arrived at the scene to show officers Jennings’ ID, but the officers can be heard saying they can’t “unarrest” him.
“What are we gonna do with him?” an officer can be heard saying as Jennings waits in handcuffs in a cop car.
Jennings was ultimately arrested on a charge of obstruction of government operations, which was dropped shortly after the arrest, the Childersburg Police Department told Insider.
The lawsuit has yet to be officially filed, Daniels said, but he believes there are grounds for a violation of Jennings’ civil rights, unlawful seizure, false imprisonment, and racial profiling.
“Pastor Jennings forgives the officers for what they did,” Daniels said. “That doesn’t mean he’s not going to sue them.”