Michael Jennings, a pastor in Childersburg, Alabama, who was arrested while watering his neighbors’ flowers, says he extends love to the neighbor who called the police on him. Jennings has, however, filed a federal lawsuit against the city and three police officers on the grounds that he was racially profiled and his civil rights violated.
“I don’t hold anything against my neighbors,” said Jennings in an interview with Dr. Rasha Richey of The Young Turks. “I still speak to them. Matter of fact, I’ve talked to her husband [of the neighbor who called 911] since the incident, and he was telling me how bad she feels about it, so. I love that neighbor just as well as I love the one where I was watering their flowers. May not have to like them all the time, but we have to love them anyway.”
Michael Jennings Files Federal Lawsuit
Michael Jennings, who is Black, is pastor of Vision of Abundant Life Church in Sylacauga, Alabama. He was watering his neighbors’ flowers on May 22 when police approached him, questioning him about his actions and saying they had received a call about a “suspicious individual.” Police body camera footage released in August captured the interaction.
Jennings said that the residence belonged to his neighbors, who were out of town and had asked him to watch their house while they were gone. “I’m Pastor Jennings,” he said. “I live across the street.”
The situation escalated after an officer asked Jennings for identification and the pastor refused to give it, saying he was not suspicious, that he had a background in law enforcement, and that he had every right to be on the property.
A different neighbor, identified as “Amanda,” eventually showed up on scene and corroborated Jennings’ claim that he knew the people whose plants he was watering.
Amanda, who is white, told the officers that she did not know if Jennings were taking care of the plants for the neighbors, but said that for him to do so would be “completely normal.” She also admitted to being the person who placed the 911 call, saying, “This is probably my fault.”
Jennings’ wife later appeared with the pastor’s wallet, but officers nevertheless arrested the Jennings and charged him with obstructing government operations. On June 1, a judge dismissed the charges with prejudice.
A transcript of the 911 call shows that Amanda voiced concern to the operator over there being a gold SUV parked in the neighbors’ driveway, as well as there being a “younger Black male” on the property.
Pastor Michael Jennings says that police violated his civil rights. On Sept. 9, he filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Childersburg and Childersburg police officers, Christopher Smith, Justin Gable, and Jeremy Brooks. The suit states that under Alabama code section 15-5-30, Jennings was not required to provide his ID to officers.