Michael Jennings, a Black pastor who was arrested while watering his neighbor's flowers, filed a lawsuit Saturday against three cops and the Alabama city where he was charged.

He claimed that his rights were violated by an unlawful and false arrest, reported USA Today. The suit filed by the longtime pastor at Vision of Abundant Life Church in Sylacauga, Alabama, claimed that his arrest in May in Childersburg, Alabama led to ongoing emotional distress "with significant PTSD type symptoms." It includes depression, sadness, anger, anxiety, stress, frustration, nightmares, sleeplessness and flashbacks.

The lawsuit said that Jennings is also entitled to "punitive damages" for "willful, malicious, wanton, reckless and fraudulent conduct towards (him)."

About two weeks ago, Jennings' lawyers released police body camera footage of the arrest that happened on May 22. The video showed two cops approaching the pastor, who was watering flowers and plants outside a house in Childersburg. Officer Christopher Smith, one of the three officers named in the lawsuit, asked Jennings what he was doing after which the pastor told them that he was watering flowers.

According to a call transcript, a 911 call had come in about a "younger Black male" and gold SUV being at the house while the owners of the house were away. Responding to Smith's statement about a 911 caller saying that there was a person who “wasn’t supposed to be here” at the house, Jennings said that he was supposed to be there, and that he lived across the street. He said that he was looking out for their "house while they're gone, watering their flowers." Smith asked for identification then Jennings said that he wasn't going to provide that because he had not done anything wrong.

NPR reported that as per Alabama law, any officer "may stop any person abroad in a public place" if they suspect that the person is committing or has committed a felony or another public offense. The cop can demand the person's name, address and an explanation of their actions. In the lawsuit, Jennings said the arrest was unlawful because he was on private property. He "had a clearly established constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment to be secure in his person from unreasonable seizure and not to be arrested without arguable probable cause to do so."

Cops told him that he could be charged with obstruction. Another officer, Justin Gable, then put the pastor in handcuffs. According to court documents, a municipal judge dismissed the obstruction charge against Jennings in June.

The lawsuit said that the pastor was taken into custody and booked into Talladega County Jail. He was released from jail after posting $500 bail, according to CNN.

Jennings said during a press conference Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama that he wants to make crystal clear that he is "not anti-police." He asserted that people need the police, and that without the "police we would have full chaos. But there are bad police and there are good police." He noted that there are bad preachers and there are good preachers, but what they did that day, they did with impunity."

Jennings added that the incident was "humiliating," and it left him feeling "dehumanized." He said that the lawsuit is his way of creating change, and he is here for "accountability and for justice."

Representational image. (image: weldert/pixabay)

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