Michael Jennings, a Black pastor who was arrested in May while watering his out-of-town neighbor’s plants, has officially filed a federal lawsuit against the three arresting Alabama police officers and the city of Childersburg.
“What they did that day was impunity, thinking there’d be no action taken against them,” Jennings said of the officers who arrested him, in a press conference Saturday. “I felt dehumanized. I felt little. I felt helpless. And it hurt me.”
The lawsuit alleges that Jennings’ arrest resulted in a loss of constitutional rights, emotional distress and PTSD.
The incident took place May 22 when Jennings was watering his neighbor’s plants for them while they were out of town. While Jennings was outside, a White neighbor called the police, telling dispatchers a Black male and gold SUV were on the homeowner’s property while they were out of town. When the authorities arrived, Jennings identified himself but did not provide proof of identification, according to the lawsuit. He was then arrested on charges of obstructing government operations.
The charge was dismissed a few days later at the request of the then-police chief. But now, Jennings is seeking a trial by jury and an unspecified amount of money.
At the news conference, Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP, said it is important for Jennings to seek justice in this case in order to set a precedent for others who may find themselves in a similar situation.
“He came out of this situation with the ability to continue his life,” Simelton said. “But we are here today because there are many others across this country, and across this nation, who had a similar encounter with law enforcement that came out much different.”