Black US pastor recalls moment he was arrested while watering plants

Body camera footage shows confrontation between Michael Jennings and Alabama police officers

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A black pastor says he was wrongfully detained after police in the US state of Alabama arrested him while he was watering his neighbour's plants.

Amber Roberson, who is white, thought she was helping her neighbour when she called police after seeing a vehicle at the house that she did not recognise.

Within 10 minutes, police officers had handcuffed Michael Jennings, a pastor at Vision of Abundant Life Church in the town of Sylacauga.

“When they first pulled up, I already knew that it was going to be something,” Mr Jennings told NPR.

A 20-minute video of the incident captured by officers' body cameras showed how the situation quickly escalated.

“What are you doing here, man?” the footage showed Officer Chris Smith ask Mr Jennings, who was watering plants beside a driveway.

Mr Jennings identified himself and then was asked by the police officer to hand over his ID.

“Oh, no, man, I’m not going to give you ID,” Mr Jennings said, turning away.

“Why not?” Mr Smith asked.

“I ain’t did nothing wrong,” the pastor replied.

Mr Jennings then asked who had called the police.

“You see a black man out here watering his neighbour’s flowers and you think it’s something illegal,” Mr Jennings said loudly.

Mr Jennings, who himself had trained to be a police officer in a nearby town, said the officers did not have the right to approach him if he hadn't done anything suspicious or wrong.

After about 10 minutes, the officers handcuffed Mr Jennings, placed him in a police car and later charged him with obstructing government operations. The charges were later dismissed.

“This is probably my fault,” the neighbour Ms Roberson said after realising that she had called police in error.

“I didn’t know it was him,” Ms Roberson told police. “I’m sorry about that.”

A lawyer for Mr Jennings told The New York Times that he plans to file a lawsuit next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: September 01, 2022, 4:52 PM
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