Source: Hot Air
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at a strange story that took place in Childersburg, Alabama. A Black pastor named Michael Jennings had been asked to look after the property of a neighbor while they were on vacation and while he was watering her flower garden, a neighbor called the police to report suspicious activity. The police arrived to question Jennings, being informed that he lived across the street. But after he refused to produce identification for them, he was briefly placed in handcuffs. At the time, I pointed out that this was probably not the end of the story and a lawsuit was almost certainly on the way. Sure enough, the Pastor has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the three police officers involved in his arrest. But the original reporting of this story left out a few key details that offer a bit of a twist. (NBC News)
A Black pastor who was arrested by Alabama police while he was watering his neighbor’s flowers filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the city and three of its officers.
Michael Jennings, a longtime pastor at Vision of Abundant Life Church in Sylacauga, Alabama, was detained on May 22 by Childersburg officers responding to a 911 call about a suspicious person.
Jennings was charged with obstructing government operations after police accused him of failing to respond to their request that he provide identification. The charges were dropped in June.
In the early accounts of the story, it was suggested that Jennings was handcuffed on the scene “and later released.” That’s true, but it skips over some important details. After being questioned in front of the neighbor’s property, the police took Jennings to the Childersburg City Jail where he was booked. He was then moved to the Talladega County Jail. He was held there until his wife came and bailed him out. Then he was “released.”
This changes the story quite a bit. Keep in mind that all of this activity involving an arrest, the filing of charges, and being locked up behind bars in two different facilities took place after his wife showed up with ID, and the woman who made the original phone call apologized and said she knew him. There could not have been any question as to whether or not he was entitled to be there taking care of the flowerbeds. They threw the book at him for “obstructing government operations” based solely on the fact that he didn’t produce identification.
Since he was on private (as opposed to public) property with permission, Alabama law does not require him to show identification. He would only need to if the police “suspect that person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a crime.” Jennings was watering the flower garden. Small wonder that the charges were dropped in fairly short order.
As to the lawsuit, we already knew that was coming because the Pastor said so at the time of the arrest. He told the officers, “I like this. It’s already a lawsuit.”But with the added information about his brief time behind bars, it’s difficult to argue that Jennings has a point. Was he “asking for it” by continuing to refuse to provide his ID, suspecting that things might turn out that way? Almost certainly. But the cops didn’t have to rise to the bait. Once it was established that he was on his neighbor’s property with permission, everyone could have just walked away. Jennings probably would have tried to sue anyway just over being handcuffed, but his case wouldn’t be nearly as strong as it appears now when the jail time is added into the equation.