Black Pastor Plans Suit After Arrest While Watering Flowers

Michael Jennings said he was taking care of neighbor's Ala. home when cops showed up
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2022 10:45 AM CDT

A Black pastor is ramping up for a lawsuit after he says Alabama police wrongfully arrested him outside his home in Childersburg while he was watering his neighbor's flowers. NBC News reports on footage released this week by lawyers for Michael Jennings that shows his May 22 arrest, "clearing the way for legal action against the officers," per the attorneys' statement. The 20-minute video, which can be seen at, shows an officer approaching Jennings as he's watering plants with a hose outside a home. The officer tells Jennings that someone reported a suspicious car and person at that house. Jennings concedes he doesn't live there but notes, without stopping his watering: "I'm Pastor Jennings, I live across the street." He also informs the questioning officer that he's watching after his neighbor's house while they're gone.

The officer asks Jennings for ID, at which point the tone of the interaction shifts. Jennings balks, saying he hasn't done anything wrong, and the conversation becomes heated. "You want to lock me up, lock me up!" an agitated Jennings yells at one point. "I'm going to continue to water these flowers." When he tries to walk away, two officers follow him. One stops Jennings and places him in handcuffs, while Jennings accuses the officers of racially profiling him. A short time later in the video, a white neighbor—the one who called the cops in the first place—comes out, recognizes Jennings, and realizes she made a mistake. "This is probably my fault," she sheepishly admits, telling the officers it would be "normal" for Jennings to be helping his neighbor out, as they're friends. NBC notes that despite the neighbor vouching for Jennings, he was still arrested.

Despite his anger, Jennings says he knew not to resist the arrest, because he feared such resistance could have "life-threatening consequences," per ABC News. He was charged with obstructing government operations, per his legal team; that charge was dismissed in June. Alabama law allows officers to demand ID if they suspect someone in a public place is committing a crime. Jennings' lawyers contend he shouldn't have been forced to show any identification, because he wasn't in a public place. "This was not only an unlawful arrest," one Jennings attorney, Harry Daniels, tells the news outlet. "It's kidnapping. It's irrational, irresponsible, and illegal." Another of Jennings' lawyers, Bethaney Embry Jones, adds: "This was a crime, not a mistake." Jennings is now considering a racial discrimination suit. A rep for the Childersburg Police Department declined to comment, citing "pending litigation." (More Alabama stories.)

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