Pastor Arrested for Watering Flowers Asks “What Made Me a Suspect?”

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This image captured from bodycam video released by the Childersburg (Ala.) Police Department and provided by attorney Harry Daniels shows Michael Jennings, right, in custody in Childersburg, Ala., on Sunday, May 22, 2022. Jennings was helping out a friend by watering flowers when officers showed up and placed him under arrest within moments.
This image captured from bodycam video released by the Childersburg (Ala.) Police Department and provided by attorney Harry Daniels shows Michael Jennings, right, in custody in Childersburg, Ala., on Sunday, May 22, 2022. Jennings was helping out a friend by watering flowers when officers showed up and placed him under arrest within moments.

Back in May, Pastor Michael Jennings of Alabama was arrested for watering his neighbors’ flowers while they were out of town. Now, according to NPR, Jennings has filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and the city of Childersburg, AL, alleging the incident caused him a great deal of emotional and mental distress.

According to reports, the cops arrested Jennings after he refused to provide officers with his identification. Though Jennings, a former police officer, knew he was not required to show ID if there was no probable cause to believe he was up to something criminal. He has a point…watering flowers isn’t very threatening. Jennings’ attorney Roderick Van Daniels told NPR that body camera footage of the incident will be enough to sustain legal action against the officers.

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“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,” said Daniels.

Officers approaching Black people with the suspicion they are a suspect before they can even explain themselves is nothing new. But how did someone watering flowers escalate to handcuffs? In an op-ed for USA TODAY, Jennings gave a first-hand account of how he was affected by the situation.

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However, the one question I keep asking myself over and over as I continue to replay the events of May 22, is why the police officers didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt. Why didn’t they believe that I was Pastor Jennings and I lived across the street? I had explained to the officers that I was asked by my neighbor to water their flowers while they were out of town. The officers should have believed me. I had a water hose in my hand when they arrived.

I wanted to believe that, even with Alabama’s remaining badges of Jim Crow and the historical mistreatment of Black people in the South, as a middle-age pastor I would have been given some deference and credibility that I was who I said I was. But, no, neither my words nor my actions meant anything to them. I was already profiled in the officers’ minds before they arrived at my neighbor’s home. In their view, I was just another Black criminal who fit the description.