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