EATONTOWN – A retired Long Branch police officer was charged with trespassing last week after promoting his faith to shoppers at Monmouth Mall.
According to the Christian News Network, David Wells, a former corporal with the Long Branch Police Department, was distributing religious materials to mall patrons “in hopes that it will cause them to ponder matters of eternity.”
“I simply approached individuals and asked them if I could ask them a question. If they said no, I left them alone,” Wells told the Christian News Network. “If they said yes I simply asked, ‘Are you going to Heaven?’ How I responded was based on how they answered that question.”
Wells said he had witnessed to mall patrons in the presence of mall security without an issue in the past, but that last Tuesday was different.
“The mall security came over and immediately told me to stop what I was doing and to leave the property,” he said. “They indicated that the mall was private property and [that I couldn’t distribute tracts there].”
However, citing a state court ruling that declared malls a quasi-public venue where such leaflets could be distributed, Wells argued that he had a right to do what he was doing, which prompted mall security to call the police.
When police arrived, Wells said, they instructed him to leave the mall or be arrested.
“I was polite about it,” Wells said. “I told them I didn’t want to get arrested. I wasn’t trying to make a scene, but I also wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
After continuing to assert that his activities were legal, Wells was arrested and charged with trespassing, which he reportedly pleaded not guilty to on Thursday.
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“I want to emphasize that I was not making any public spectacle: no signs, no loudness, no offensive language. I was simply trying to talk to people,” Wells told the Christian News Network.
“If we’ve gotten to the point in the U.S. that we cannot talk to other people civilly, we’re in trouble.”
Wells is scheduled to appear in court again on December 5, the report said.