CHILDERSBURG, Ala. (WIAT) – A Childersburg pastor was arrested after watering his neighbor’s flowers over the weekend and believes it was a misunderstanding that should have been handled much differently.
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Michael Jennings is the preacher for Vision of Abundant Life Ministries in Sylacauga and has been in the ministry for over 30 years.
He is also a good neighbor in the city of Childersburg.
“My neighbor goes out of town a lot and they wanted me to take care of their house and keep their flowers watered,” Jennings said.
On Sunday after church services, Jennings went to her neighbor’s house to water the roses. Another neighbor did not recognize who he was and called the police to report a suspicious person on the property.
Officers responded and made contact with Jennings, who did not have his identification on his person. Jennings said he told officers who he was and why he was there.
“He said, ‘Give me some ID,’ I said, ‘No, I don’t have to give any ID because no crime has been committed,’ I said, but what I’m going to do is I’m going to tell them that I’m Pastor Jennings and I live right across the street. street and told him he can go ask my wife,” Jennings said.
Jennings said that when he continued to water the plants, he was detained. A third officer, identified as a sergeant, arrived on the scene and that’s when the pastor said tensions ran high.
“He got out of the car. He is already on. I’m telling them, ‘You’re making a mistake, this is wrong what you’re doing,’” Jennings recalled. He said the sergeant yelled at him, “’Shut up and listen. You talk too much.’ I said, ‘Don’t tell me to shut up, boy. I’m a grown man,’ ‘You’re going to jail, that’s all. Lock him up.’”
According to the police incident report, officers claimed Jennings was belligerent and walking away from police and threatened to sue him for racial profiling. The longtime clergy leader admitted he wasn’t happy, but said none of his actions warranted an arrest.
“I think it was profiling and because I didn’t speak to them the way they wanted me to speak to them, it made them angry and they decided we would arrest him,” Jennings said.
The original neighbor who called police told officers she had made a mistake and begged them not to arrest Jennings once she realized she was her friend and neighbor. The woman’s account is detailed in the incident report, but Jennings was still charged with obstructing government operations.
He was booked into the Talladega County Jail and later released.
“Last time I checked, watering roses is not a crime,” Jennings said.
Childersburg Police Chief Rick McClelland declined an interview with CBS 42 because he said he was just catching up on some of the details. He promised a full investigation and said that he would take the necessary steps after looking into the matter.
Asked if there was any reason Jennings would have had to show identification, McClelland said it would have depended on the circumstances.
Jennings said he continues to pray for the officers involved and the police officers who risked their lives. He believes the officers involved need more training, but he hopes his name will be cleared in the long run.
“You see all the people, black people arrested for some of the dumbest things, but arrested for watering flowers? I was embarrassing. In the middle of the neighborhood with all the disrespect that I received, being handcuffed and taken out, the neighbors in there were coming out of their house,” Jennings said.
Chief McClelland said he would share updates on the investigation when more information becomes available.
Stay with CBS 42 for updates.