Rolling Out

Exclusive interview: Alabama pastor who was arrested for watering plants sues police

‘Indisputable with Dr. Rashad Richey’ exclusive interview with Alabama pastor arrested for watering plants

YouTube video

An Alabama pastor was arrested while watering his neighbor’s flowers in an incident arguably portraying inherent bias and abuse of power from the responding police officers.

“Indisputable with Dr. Rashad Richey” was the first news outlet to obtain the full video of the arrest, which was recorded by police body camera footage.

Dr. Rashad Richey aired the exclusive ‘Bullpen‘ interview with pastor Michael Jennings on his show. The recorded interaction between Jennings and the police officers provided evidence that Jennings was not doing anything wrong, despite officers treating him like he was a criminal.

In the video, the officers approach Jennings. Jennings is seen holding a watering hose; he is walking around, methodically watering the plants in the front yard, during daylight hours. The officer first asks Jennings about the vehicle parked in the driveway of Jennings’s neighbor’s home. Jennings explains it’s his neighbor’s car.

The officer then says, “They say that this vehicle is not supposed to be here and you’re not supposed to be here. They called about it.”

Jennings promptly identifies himself as “Pastor Jennings” to the officer, without being asked.

“I’m supposed to be here. I’m Pastor Jennings. I live across the street. I’m looking after their house while they’re gone. I’m watering their flowers.”

The officer asks for Jennings’s ID. Jennings doesn’t hesitate to tell the officer he used to be a police officer, and he knows he doesn’t need to hand over an ID because he’s not doing anything wrong. The officer insists that Jennings looked “suspicious” while watering the flowers.

“You have no right to approach me if I didn’t do anything suspicious, or nothing wrong,” said Jennings. “I told him I’m a pastor […] You want to lock me up, lock me up!”

The officer responds by calling into dispatch and says, “10-4, we have one that’s not listening to us.”
“Not listening” is not a violation of statutory law.

An officer grabs Jennings and says, “Just calm down.”

Jennings tells the officers a second time that he’s already identified himself as “Pastor Jennings” and that he was there to water his neighbors’ flowers.

An officer responds, “How do I know that’s the truth?”

Jennings replies, “Because I had the watering hose in my hands; I was watering the flowers.”

Richey brought Jennings to talk on his show, after playing the clip.

“Couple of dynamics here I need to highlight for the record,” said Richey on his show. “Number one, Pastor Jennings did identify himself. Number two, he did identify his address by pointing directly to his home. Number three, his wife did come out later and present another form of identification that was disregarded by the cops.”

Jennings and his attorney Bethaney Embry Jones discussed the arrest with Richey.

“I felt like they took away my pursuit of happiness, and I felt like I was kidnapped,” said Jennings during the interview with Richey. “They want to get you in the system.”

Jennings said it was shameful and surreal. He’s been a long-time fan of “Indisputable with Dr. Rashad Richey” and said he never thought he would be on the show for a situation like this.

Richey directed a question at Jennings’s lawyer, asking, “Miss Jones, I know by now you have heard that video where the officers are trying to figure out, ‘What in the world can we charge this man with?’ And it seems as if they’re making it up as they go. Can you give us some insight into that conversation, legally? And what claim did they initially use to justify the arrest?”

“Initially, they said that he was impeding an investigation; they had got a call for a suspicious person. And then because he wouldn’t give his identification, he was impeding that investigation,” said Jones. “However, like you said, as you listen on the remaining portions of the video, they’re like, ‘Well, what do we charge him with?'”

Jones explained that neighbors often asked Jennings to water their flowers.

“In this situation, they use their power, because they were being abusive of their power. And they took away our client’s Fourth Amendment rights,” said Jones.

Jones says the officers took Jenning’s phone before he was even in handcuffs. She said that was another violation of his rights. And that the police had no right to insist on seeing an ID after Jennings had already identified himself multiple times during the interaction and was compliant.

“Who walks next door with their ID?” said Jones. “Nobody.”

Jennings’s wife eventually came out and gave the police his ID. A woman also identified herself as the person who called the police, and Jennings said she told the police, “It’s my fault.” Jennings said once the neighbor realized her mistake, she asked the officers if Jennings had to be arrested, and she tried to defend him, with no luck. Despite all of this, the officers claimed it was “too late” to let him go and arrested him anyways.

“They indicated that in order for them to do their job, they have to investigate. Well, if [Jennings’s wife] brought the ID, he had been identified four other ways. So he had been identified; he had provided enough identification. In this situation, again, like you said, they were trying to figure out what to charge him with. I think because he didn’t comply and answer their questions the way that they wanted him to comply, they said, ‘We’re going to lock him up. We’re going to put him in the system. And we’re going to make sure that he does not do this to another police officer.'”

Jones said the officers weren’t following the law, and there is no law requiring Jennings to identify himself while he was on private property. Jones is filing a federal lawsuit against the city of Childersburg, as well as the police department, in relation to the incident caught on body camera video.

The charges against Jennings were later dropped.

Richey asked Jennings what he would say to individuals who are harassed by police or have had their rights violated by law enforcement, and they may not have it on video, or corroborators.

Jennings said it was important for people to remember everything that took place, in detail. He said to write everything down, and make sure to include dates and times, even before contacting a lawyer.

“And by no means am I anti-police,” said Jennings. “I don’t want people to think that, because there are bad preachers just as well as bad police. I wish we can bridge the gap between municipalities and the community. And I know police got a very stressful job, very stressful job. But we can’t go out and take our feelings, personal issues out on the community. That only makes it worse.

Jennings lives in Childersburg, Alabama, about an hour southeast of Birmingham. He said he has been in the neighborhood for seven years and has positive support from the community. He said he doesn’t hold anything against the neighbor who called the police on him.

“This was one of the most egregious and ridiculous arrests I’ve seen in many years,” said Richey. “But I’m glad that Pastor Jennings is alive to tell the story. Because as you know, it has gone the other way for many, many African American males who decided to stand up for themselves and stand up for their rights.”

Join our Newsletter

Sign up for Rolling Out news straight to your inbox.

Read more about:
Also read
Rolling Out