Alabama police officers arrested a pastor who was watering his out-of-town neighbor’s flowers in May, body camera footage first released Wednesday shows.
In the footage, an unidentified officer with the Childersburg Police Department is seen approaching Michael Jennings, pastor at Vision of Abundant Life Ministries in Sylacauga, while he is watering his neighbor’s flowers. The police question Jennings about his activity and ask who he is.
“What are you doing here, man?” the officer asks Jennings after approaching him.
“Watering flowers,” the pastor says while holding a hose and watering the plants.
The officer questions Jennings about a vehicle in the driveway, which Jennings explains belongs to his neighbor.
When asked if he lives at the residence, Jennings says he does not, at which point the officer claims someone reported that both Jennings and the car “are not supposed to be here.”
“I’m supposed to be here,” Jennings explains calmly. “I’m Pastor Jennings. I live across the street. I’m looking out for their house while they’re gone. Watering their flowers.”
The officer then asks for Jennings’ ID, but Jennings refuses the request, asserting that he hasn’t done anything wrong.
“I’m not going to give you no ID. I ain’t did nothing wrong and I didn’t do anything suspicious,” Jennings says, adding that he used to be a police officer.
The officer insists Jennings identify himself, to which Jennings responds, “I don’t have to identify myself. This is not a stop and identify state. I live right across the street. Who called ya’ll?”
“You have no right to approach me if I ain’t did nothing suspicious or nothing wrong,” Jennings adds. “You want to lock me up, lock me up.”
Jennings eventually starts to slowly walk away. A second officer pursues him and puts him in handcuffs.
“Go ahead and do what you gotta do. Go on and lock me up. It’s already a lawsuit,” Jennings says as a third officer arrives on the scene.
After forcing the handcuffed pastor to sit down, the first police officer questions another neighbor who says she knows Jennings. She confirms that Jennings lives across the street and that he “may” have permission to water his neighbor’s flowers because “they are friends and they went out of town today.”
Despite the neighbor calling it a mistake, Jennings was eventually arrested and charged with obstructing government operations. The charges were later dropped.
Harry Daniels, a civil rights attorney representing Jennings, said the body camera footage clearly demonstrated “an abuse of police powers.”
“It represents an abuse of police powers. It represents racial profiling and it represents law-enforcement officers intimidating a person who actually understands and knows their rights,” Daniels said, according to WBRC.
Daniels said he and two other lawyers plan to sue the department.
“These cases put law enforcement on notice and the country on notice that these types of interactions — thank God that Pastor Jennings had a cool head,” Daniels said. “He didn’t get aggressive or defensive in a sense, and he complied when the officers grabbed him. … It could’ve went a different way. Pastor Jennings could very well not be here today.”