Alabama pastor says he was wrongfully arrested while watering his neighbor's flowers
A Black pastor in Alabama said he was wrongfully arrested and charged with a crime while watering his neighbor's flowers.
Video of Michael Jennings' arrest May 22 was released by his lawyers this week, "clearing the way for legal action against the officers," they said in a news release.
In the 20-minute-long video, obtained by NBC News, a Childersburg officer approaches Jennings while he is standing on the side of a home watering plants. When the officer asks Jennings what he is doing, Jennings responds, "watering flowers."
The officer asks if a car parked in the driveway belongs to Jennings but Jennings says it is his neighbor's car. The officer asks Jennings if he lives at the home and Jennings explains that he does not.
The officer then tells Jennings that police received a call about a suspicious person at the home.
"Who's saying that?" Jennings asks.
"They called about it. ... I don't know," the officer responds.
"I'm supposed to be here. I'm Pastor Jennings. I live across the street," Jennings says as he continues to water the flowers. "I'm looking out for they house while they gone."
When the officer asks for identification, Jennings declines to provide it, telling the officer that he has not done anything wrong. He also tells the officer that he's former law enforcement.
"You want to lock me up. Lock me up. I'm not showing y'all anything," Jennings says. "I'm gonna continue watering these flowers. ... I don't care who called y'all. Lock me up and see what happens."
Jennings is ultimately placed in handcuffs for not providing identification.
The ordeal started because Jennings' neighbor, a white woman, called police to report a suspicious person. When she realizes that it was Jennings outside the home, she apologizes to him.
"He lives right there and he would be watering their flowers. This is probably my fault," she tells the three officers who responded to the scene.
Despite the woman telling police that she knows Jennings, he is still arrested.
An attorney for Jennings said his client was charged with obstructing government operations. A municipal judge dismissed the charge in June.
"This video makes it clear that these officers decided they were going to arrest Pastor Jennings less than five minutes after pulling up and then tried to rewrite history claiming he hadn’t identified himself when that was the first thing he did," attorney Daniels said. "This was not only an unlawful arrest. It’s kidnapping. It’s irrational, irresponsible and illegal."
Under Alabama law, an officer "may stop any person abroad in a public place" if they suspect that person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime.
Attorneys for Jennings said their client did not have to provide identification "because he was not in a public place," the news release states.
"Chief McClelland and the Childersburg Police Department may think all they have to do is drop the charges and this all goes away," said Bethaney Embry Jones, another attorney for Jennings.
"This was a crime, not a mistake. I would hope that the Childersburg Police Department would understand the difference."