October 3, 2022
Black priest arrested for watering neighbor’s flowers, lawsuit filed against Alabama police

Michael Jennings, a black pastor who was arrested in May while watering a neighbor’s plants outside his city, filed a petition, as he requested. federal lawsuit on Friday against three Alabama police officers and the city of Childersburg. The trial alleges that the arrest resulted in loss of constitutional rights, emotional distress and PTSD for Jennings.

Jennings said of the officers who arrested him, “What he did that day was free from punishment, thinking that no action would be taken against him.” Press conference Saturday. “I felt dehumanized. I felt a little. I felt helpless. And it hurt me.”

In the lawsuit, Jennings’ attorney claims that Childersburg Police Officers Christopher Smith and Justin Gable, along with Sgt. Jeremy Brooks violated his Fourth Amendment rights and engaged in conduct that “willfully, maliciously, in bad faith, and reckless disregard of Pastor Jennings” rights.

Michael Jennings getting arrested
This image, taken from a bodycam video and released by the Childersburg Police Department, shows Michael Jennings, right, in custody on May 22, 2022, in Childersburg, Ala. Jennings says he was helping a neighbor by watering flowers when officers showed up. And in a few moments he was arrested.

Childersburg Police Department / AP

The lawsuit reads, “No reasonable officer in the position of the defendants of the persons could believe that Pastor Jennings had prior to his arrest had a reasonably probable cause of obstructing the crime of the government, or of any other criminal act.”

The incident happened on May 22 when Jennings was watering her neighbor’s flowers as they were out of town, according to the lawsuit. A white neighbor called police on Jennings, telling dispatchers that a black male and gold SUV was at the homeowner’s property, the Associated Press reported.

Jennings identified himself to officers as “Pastor Jennings,” but refused to provide proof of identity, the lawsuit says. The authorities then arrested him on charges of obstructing government affairs, the suit says.

According to the AP, the charge was dropped days after the incident at the request of the then police chief. The arrest was captured in body camera footage, and was obtained and released by Jennings’ lawyers last month.

Jennings is seeking trial by jury and an unspecified amount.

At Saturday’s news conference, Benard Simelton, the president of the Alabama NAACP, said it was important for Jennings to get justice in the case, so that others don’t face similar interactions with law enforcement.

“He came out of this situation with the ability to continue with his life,” Simelton said. “But we are here today because there are many others in this country and across this country who had a similar encounter with law enforcement that was very different.”

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