Yesterday morning, I interviewed Rev. Freddie Tellis, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church. This past Sunday, a Pensacola Police Officer, with her hand on her holstered pistol, interrupted the service at his church to take custody of Tellis’ granddaughter.
The Tellis family has been involved in a custody dispute with the 13-year-old’s father for over a year. The girl and her mother reside in California. The father lives in Milton.
Freddie Tellis, 64, grew up in Pensacola. After graduating from Wedgewood Junior/Senior High, he entered the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served for 30 years. He taught at Escambia High for almost nine years. He has been an AME pastor for several years. Rev. Tellis has been the pastor of the historic Allen Chapel AME Church since November 2012.
For the first time with the media, the pastor shared what happened in his church:
Okay, it’s real simple, really. I had been expecting the Escambia County Sheriff to come to my house ever since the week before Sunday.
Now, I want to be real careful, because I don’t want to get the custody stuff going on and jeopardize what’s going on with that with the attorney and my daughter, but I had already knew that that was going to happen.
What happened Sunday was when we were about to start Communion, I saw the gentleman (the child’s father) and the police officer in the foyer, and I said to my officers, “They’re here to see me.”
I already knew what it was about. Then when she was in the doorway, I said invite her in, or you invited in. Have a seat in the church or in the foyer, we’ll be finished shortly.
She then walked back to the foyer, then the doors closed.
I went on my knees to start the Communion prayers. Part way through that I hear a commotion, and she has come down the aisle with her hand on her pistol and trying to force the child out of the seat, and that’s when the video started. (video below)
Like I said on my Facebook feed, the video does not show me inviting her in, either in the foyer or in the church itself, to have a seat until we’re finished, and that would have taken … I asked her to wait fifteen minutes.
Numerous other (church) officers had run out to the foyer to ask what was going on, and when she came in, they kept asking her to please wait until we’re finished, and the video picks up at that point.
One of the ladies asked her to call her supervisor, call your supervisor, so she got on her walkie-talkie and I guess the sergeant told her wait in the foyer.
When she left out, they asked me did I want to cut it short. I said, “No, we’re going to finish,” and within five minutes or so, her supervisor had showed up. I saw him watching through the glass door; the little glass partition.
When we continued on and when we finished, then they both came marching in, which I still thought was improper because we could have done it in the foyer and not make a big spectacle of that.
This could have been avoided. She was asked to have a seat, we’ll be done shortly, and she refused.
I had a longer interview with Pastor Tellis on Pensacola Speaks. We will post that transcript later.
On Tuesday, we asked the Pensacola Police Department for the body cam video and copies of the official report on the incident and the court order.
We are told: “We do not have any offense reports on the incident as we were there to stand by and assure the peace and not to serve a court order.”
The body cam video was not released until after 5 p.m. yesterday. We will be reviewing it today.
The immediate question that pops up is: Did the officer’s actions assure the peace?