Man’s Death at Music Fest Leads to $350K Settlement in Police Brutality Suit

The family of a 38-year-old New Jersey man who died after allegedly being beaten and choked by cops at a music festival more than two years ago settled their excessive force lawsuit with Howell police for $350,000.

The news was first reported by NJ Civil Settlements, a blog that provides a partial list of settlements paid by New Jersey government agencies and their insurers to those who have sued them.

Timothy J. Harden, of Belmar, was volunteering at the Souper Groove music festival on Sept. 5, 2015 when he began having a “medical or psychiatric episode” that caused him to become agitated, according to court papers.

Private security then used excessive and unreasonable force to restrain Harden until police arrived at the Priedaine New Jersey Latvian Society on Route 33, the suit says. When Howell police arrived, the suit alleged they beat and choked Harden, causing his thyroid cartilage to fracture and leaving him with bruises and contusions.

Harden died that day at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.

Police told a different story of what took place that afternoon. Harden punched a private security guard in the face after drinking alcohol and using cocaine and marijuana, authorities said.

The security guard responded by punching Harden before other guards intervened and brought Harden to the ground, authorities said. When Howell police officers arrived, they tried to talk to Harden in an attempt to calm him down and get him medical help, authorities said.

Harden became combative with police and suddenly stopped breathing as police waited for paramedics to administer a sedative, officials said. Harden died at the hospital minutes later.

The officers who allegedly beat Harden are not named in the suit, which was filed in November 2015.

Months later, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office announced the officers involved had been cleared of wrongdoing, saying Harden’s death came as a result of “drug-induced excited delirium.”

The suit, which was settled Nov. 6, was filed by Harden’s sisters, Theresa Taylor, of Brick, and Melissa Barna, of Lakehurst. The lawsuit also named the Priedaine New Jersey Latvian Society and the organizers of Souper Groove. The suit against the two groups is still active.

Harden was a 1996 graduate of Neptune High School who later attended Monmouth University, according to an online obituary.