A Black pastor in Sylacauga, Alabama was arrested by police earlier this year.
Now bodycam footage of the incident has been released, showing the incident between him and the officers.
Michael Jennings, pastor of the Vision of Abundant Life Church claimed he was watering his neighbor’s plants while they were out of town. An anonymous neighbor called the police, who arrested him for supposedly “obstructing government operations.”
The newly released bodycam footage shows what happened.
On May 22l, Jennings was asked to water his neighbor’s plants while they were out of town. The pastor was doing just that when an anonymous neighbor called the police on the man.
Childersburg Police Officers say they were responding to a call about a suspicious person “not supposed to be in the yard” when they approached Jennings.
Despite police reports claiming Jennings didn’t identify himself, the bodycam footage shows him doing just that very early in the conversation.
Jennings was heard saying:
“I’m supposed to be here."
"I’m Pastor Jennings. I live across the street.”
“I’m looking out for their house while they're gone, watering their flowers.”
Jennings continued to be questioned by the officers, who didn’t seem to believe he was there to water flowers. They said the car parked in the driveway was suspicious, but Jennings explained it belonged to the neighbor.
The police continued to question the pastor.
As things got tense, the anonymous neighbor who called police tried to tell the officers they made a mistake.
She recognized Jennings and said:
“He lives right there, and he would be watering their flowers."
"This is probably my fault.”
Despite Jennings doing nothing wrong—and the neighbor who reported the incident backtracking—officers arrested Jennings anyway. The charges were later dismissed by a municipal judge in June.
Jennings’ lawyers have been pushing for release of the bodycam footage to show the actions of the officers involved.
Harry Daniels, an attorney representing Jennings, said:
“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.”
They hope the release of this footage will allow for legal action against the officers involved.
Despite the video showing the pastor doing nothing wrong, some commenters thought the pastor reacted poorly.
Other commenters were quick to show why that thinking was wrong.
Childersburg Police Department has not responded to media requests for comment.
Alabama officers may stop and request identification if they suspect a person has or is committing a felony or another public offense.
But watering plants doesn’t seem to fall under that umbrella.