Skip to main content

Drug-Induced Death at Howell Music Festival, Ruled Accidental

Howell Township

The death of a Belmar man at a music festival in September has been ruled an accident.

A Monmouth County grand jury determined that the police officers who responded to the event in response to 911 calls seeking assistance appropriately handled the situation, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Howell Township police officers responded to a 911 call at approximately 2:52 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2015, reporting a disorderly person at a music festival. Souper Groove Music Festival was holding a three-day concert at the Priedaine Latvian Society, located on Route 33 in the township.

Upon arrival on scene, the officers were directed to a parking lot where private security guards were holding down a man later identified as Harden, a volunteer at the event.

It was learned later after speaking to other festival volunteers and people attending the concert that Harden had been acting erratically all day, endangering him and others, and was believed to be under the influence of an illegal substance. After being approached by an event security guard in an effort to provide him with assistance, Harden punched him in the face in an unprovoked attack. The security guard responded by punching Harden and, with the help of other security guards, took Harden to the ground.

Event organizers called 911 for assistance and also requested an ambulance. When police officers arrived, Harden was belligerent and combative with the security guards attempting to restrain him. The officers attempted to speak to Harden in an attempt to calm him down and get him medical attention, but he refused. Officers then restrained Harden while waiting for EMTs so that he could receive medical attention.

Howell Township First Aid arrived on scene and observed Harden being combative with the police and contacted MONOC paramedics so that he could be sedated and transported to a hospital. While waiting for the paramedics to administer the sedative, Harden suddenly stopped breathing. Harden was placed in an ambulance and transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune Township, where he was pronounced dead.

The investigation into the death of Timothy Harden, 38, of Belmar, was conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office after the N.J. Attorney General’s Office determined that there was no conflict of interest. Additionally, the Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted a post-mortem examination and issued an autopsy report. The toxicology test conducted as part of the autopsy revealed Harden had cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana in his system at the time of his death. The cause of Harden’s death was determined to be as a result of drug-induced excited delirium and was ruled an accident by the medical examiner. Based on the results of the investigation and the autopsy results, it is apparent that the actions of the officers were lawful and did not violate the Use of Force policies of the Attorney General’s Office or Monmouth County.

As directed by the New Jersey Attorney General Directive governing Police Officers Use of Force, the case was presented to a Monmouth County grand jury on Feb. 26, 2016, to review the officers’ actions. After hearing the evidence, the grand jury determined that no criminal charges should be filed against the officers.

In addition, pursuant to the same Directive, Acting Prosecutor Gramiccioni reviewed the matter in its entirety and determined that the investigation and grand jury presentment were in compliance with all relevant provisions of the Directive.