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Black pastor arrested while watering neighbor’s flowers, video shows

<i>Childersburg Police Department</i><br/>
Childersburg Police Department

By Virginia Langmaid, CNN

A Black pastor in Alabama says he was arrested while watering his neighbor’s flowers — and his attorney has called the incident “irrational, irresponsible, and illegal.”

In police body camera footage from May and released last week, an officer is seen approaching the man, Michael Jennings, who tells the officer he has been asked to water the flowers while a neighbor is gone.

In the video that has since gone viral, Jennings, of Childersburg, Alabama, is asked by the officer what he is doing at the house and whose car is in the driveway. He says it’s the neighbor’s vehicle and identifies himself as “Pastor Jennings” without being asked.

Jennings tells the officer, “I’m supposed to be here. I’m Pastor Jennings. I live across the street.”

An officer responds, “You’re Pastor Jennings?” And he responds, “Yes, I’m looking after their house while they’re gone, looking after their flowers.”

The officer then asks Jennings for identification and Jennings says he will not give any identification to the officer. Less than a minute and a half later, as Jennings tries to make a call on his phone, officers handcuff him, the body camera footage shows.

The officers in the video later speak with the neighbor who called 911, who is not identified by name. “They are friends, and they went out of town today, so he may be watering their flowers, and it could be completely normal,” she tells the officers about Jennings and the homeowner.

“He would be watering their flowers, this is probably my fault,” she says.

Later in the video, Jennings’ wife arrives and provides the officer with his identification.

“She does tell us it’s a mistake and all that stuff, but at this point he’s already collected the charge,” the officer tells her.

“Once we place him under arrest we can’t unarrest him,” the officer says.

He was arrested for “Obstructing Governmental Operations,” but charges were later dropped, according to a police statement from June 1, 2022.

Police were responding to a 911 call about a “suspicious” car parked at the residence and a person “the caller did not recognize,” Richard McClelland, chief of police for the city of Childersburg, said in the statement. The caller stated that her neighbors who lived at the residence were out of town and advised that the suspicious person might be inside the residence, according to the police chief’s statement.

In an email to CNN on Tuesday, an attorney for the city said the audio of the 911 call provides “vital” information for the incident.

CNN has requested a copy of the transcript of this call.

“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 Harry Daniels said in a news release last week.

Midway through the video, officers can be heard discussing charges for Jennings.

“We’re here to investigate a call and he wouldn’t give us his name, or or any other thing,” an officer says.

“He told me he was trying to call the owner, but still I need his name,” he says.

“The 911 audio recording from the call and officer body camera footage was reviewed and interviews were conducted with the officers involved as part of my own investigation of the incident,” McClelland said in the statement.

“As result of my investigation, I have recommended to the Municipal Judge of The City of Childersburg that the warrant be dismissed with prejudice,” McClelland said.

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