Retired Police Officer Arrested for Sharing Gospel in New Jersey Mall

Monmouth Mall pdEATONTOWN, N.J. — A retired police officer was arrested and charged with trespassing this week for witnessing to patrons of a New Jersey mall.

David Wells is a former corporal with the Long Branch Police Department, and over the past year, he has spent time sharing his faith at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown. Wells says that he likes to distribute materials from Ray Comfort’s Living Waters Publications to shoppers in hopes that it will cause them to ponder matters of eternity. This past week, he handed out Comfort’s trillion dollar bill tract while asking a “trillion dollar” question.

“I simply approached individuals and asked them if I could ask them a question. If they said no, I left them alone,” Wells explained. “If they said yes I simply asked, ‘Are you going to Heaven?’ How I responded was based on how they answered that question.”

Wells states that he has witnessed to mall patrons in the presence of mall security without issue in the past. However, this past Tuesday, things were different.

“The mall security came over and immediately told me to stop what I was doing and to leave the property,” he explained. “They indicated that the mall was private property and [that I couldn’t distribute tracts there].”

But Wells noted that the state courts had declared malls a quasi-public venue, and “with that understanding I went to the mall to talk to people about the Gospel.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 1994 in the case of New Jersey Coalition Against War in the Middle East v. J.M.B. Realty Corporation that malls followed the “historical path of free speech,” in the vein of parks, squares and downtown business districts. It allowed citizens to leaflet both inside and outside malls, but did not endorse other forms of expression such as public speeches.

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“We believe that this constitutional free speech right, thus limited, will perform the intended role of assuring that the free speech of New Jersey’s citizens can be heard, can be effective, and can reach at least as many people as it used to before the downtown business districts were transported to the malls,” the court wrote.

The justices also outlined that a complaint is not enough to force termination of the right to free expression. Wells stated that he was unaware of a complaint, but said that it might have been the instigator that eventually forced him out of the mall.

“[S]ome people will not like it, any more perhaps than they liked free speech at the downtown business districts. Dislike for free speech, however, has never been the determinant of its protection or its benefit. We live with it, we permit it, as we have for more than two hundred years,” the court stated. “It is free speech, it is constitutionally protected; it is part of this State, and so are these centers.”

However, when Wells asserted that he had a right to distribute tracts in the mall, security called the police. Police contended under threat of arrest that Wells must leave as the mall is privately owned.

“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.”

When Wells continued to assert that his activities were not unlawful, he was put in handcuffs and transported to the Eatontown police station for processing. He was formally charged with trespassing and plead not guilty in court on Thursday.

“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,” he stated. “If we’ve gotten to the point in the U.S. that we cannot talk to other people civilly, we’re in trouble.”

Wells will face a trial on December 5th. He is currently seeking legal representation in the matter, and in the meantime, supporters have launched a petition to defend free speech at the Monmouth Mall.

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  • fliteking

    Ahhhh, the signs of the times are all around us!

  • Webb

    I hope he sues the mall and the police, and wins. This is all coming down from the Democrats, Obama, and Mikey Weinstein who is Obama’s atheist chaplaim.

  • William Levi

    These days that the Bible warns us about are here in America. 2 decades ago, I came to America from Sudan because of Islamic Persecution. They killed 2 million of our fellow Christians and displaced 4.5 millions of us into exile. I never thought Islam will be given prominent status in this land by our government where millions of us came to seek religious freedom afforded by the First Amendment under the Constitution. We are going to see a wave of persecution against Christians in this country like we have never seen before. Islamic will take a center stage as Judeo- Christian west crumbles under the weight of Socialistic, communistic, humanistic and materialistic moral collapse.

    All that we can do is to pray and encourage one another with these words.

    John 16: 33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

    Matthew 10: 1619 – ” Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.”

    20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.

    21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.

    22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

    • Cheryl

      It is indeed a very sad time now that we have a Muslim in charge of this country. He is not shy about his agenda either. He lied and said he was a Christian so he could get voted in, but I have seen video clips of him stating, “Americans are stupid.” just like he wasn’t an American because he isn’t! I also saw him picking out Scriptures and mocking them, but he doesn’t understand nor want to understand the Bible. It is our Chief Muslim, Obama who is destroying America. He is taking us down and doing it as quick as he can. After all, Muslims hate America, Jews and Christians too!

  • WorldGoneCrazy

    If he had been handing out coupons for Victoria’s Secret, or samples for the latest Chinese restaurant, or free copies of the book “Heather Has Two Mommies,” I’m sure that the cops would never have been called. But, talking about Jesus in the mall means it’s off to the gulag for him!

  • pat paulsen

    Even though we know this persecution must occur (the Bible is clear on this), it is so disappointing to see that the worst offender of religious freedom of speech is our own country! How can this have happened?

    • Bob

      So true. We should be passing Bills granting Christians unalienable rights to speak the truth.

  • Anna Marie Gomez

    I applaud anyone who is brave enough to share the Good News at a Mall, or any other public place. Our God will not be silenced, ever.

    • aaron

      The mall is not a public place it is a business. Please do some research on this.

      • Cheryl

        It was already sited in this article and I will also show you what the law says: In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a shopping mall was the modern equivalent of main street, the “normal municipal business district.” It concluded that the landowner could not “limit the use of that property by members of the public in a manner that would not be permissible were the property owned by a municipality.” (Amalgamated Foods Employees Union Local 590 v. Logan Valley Plaza)
        So now that the research has been done, what anti-Christian rhetoric do you have to spout now….???
        I think you need to do your homework before spouting your anti-Christian agenda….

        • Cheryl

          Also to Freebird, I cannot believe you don’t support this man’s dedication to the Lord. People are dying and going to Hell! Isn’t that enough to be said? If this man could help to save one person from Hell, wouldn’t that be worth the interruption? My goodness, stop thinking like an atheist, Muslim or or pagan religion and start thinking like a born again Christian… Where is the Love of the Lord???
          If I were on my way to Hell, I sure would welcome a great big interruption!

  • freebird

    As a born-again believer, I thought about it this way: Would I want an athiest or Mormon or Muslim interrupting my experience at a mall to try to convert me? Nope. Real simple then. Treat others how you want to be treated.

    Now, had this been on a truly (not “qausi” which means “kind of”) public space like a sidewalk or part or public University, then I would be worried–because you expect solicitation in those venues.

    • Steven

      freebird, as a born-again believer, instead of thinking in terms of an atheist or Mormon or Muslim as “interrupting my experience”, you should welcome the opportunity to share the love of Christ with them. The reason our country has to come to this point is because we born-again believers have opted not to interrupt anyone and go along our merry ways quietly while the world goes to hell. Thank God for unashamed believers like Mr. Wells who love the Lord enough to share the gospel. Looking forward to how the courts rule on this one.

    • Rob


      The article stated that he did *not begin* by solicitation. The approach was basically, “May I ask you a question”. I’m surprised you didn’t catch this subtlety.

      I generally do not accommodate interruptions anywhere, nor do I affirm someone who uses this approach. It generally leads to loss of time and disagreement. However, I do not disagree that this man is perfectly within his legal rights to approach another person in this way. As far as the legality of a mall being private property it appears at least initially that that won’t stand in court. Personally, if this arrest does not have any legs to stand on, than a real good law suit should follow. If the man doesn’t want the money, fine, but donate the settlement. Now that would be a Christian thing to do.

    • Robert

      i didnt see anything that would suggest he was trying to convert anyone…i do believe that he was sharing the gospel, which if you are truly born again then you should know Jesus commisioned us to do this

    • John C

      Hold your tongue, free bird… you are not a saved Bible believer because if you were then you wouldn’t disobey a Bible commandment by thinking “this way.” And if somehow you are saved and are backslidden enough to interpret the Bible “this way” then I’d watch my hide because God chastises His children real good for going so far astray like you apparently have. It’d be better for you to go to the bar than to try to put limitations on a soulwinner. He that winneth souls is wise… freebird thinks it must be a sidewalk… lostbird if you ask me.

  • yes

    Unfortunately, as we saw with the free speech issue in New Orleans on Bourbon Street, such organizations as Sekulow’s ACLJ are not interested in these types of things, generally. They are more interested in things that raise their profile and allow them to raise money, like whether or not crosses can be displayed on public land in the middle of nowhere.

    After all, we all know that is far more important than evangelism.

    • Cheryl

      So not true.. I mean did Jay tell you that? What a horrible thing to say against these people that work to hard and so tirelessly to help Christians in need. Really… do people just make these things up as they go?

  • I too find the privacy-invading preachers like Mr. Wells most annoying. His question-before-question: “Can I ask you a question?” — is misleading as it appeals to a man’s desire to help stranger with a genuine problem — only to turn out, the stranger is proselytizing…

    That said, it seems most ironic, that the right to use private property of the malls as “semi-private”, won by Illiberals 1994, is now used for spreading Christianity, which those same Illiberals tend to find most disagreeable.

    The irony is, of course, on the other side as well — the same people, who sympathize with this proselytizer were, I’m quite certain, disapproving of the court’s decision back in 1994…

  • Spock56

    BoyCott MALL until they Give Formal Apolgy and let him distribute!
    Boycott all of Malls owned by Vornado
    The Outlets at Bergen Town Center, NJ
    Beverly Connection, CA
    Broadway Mall, NY
    Downtown Crossing, MA
    Green Acres Mall, NY (sold to Macerich in October 2012)[6]
    Kings Plaza, NY (was owned by 32.4% affiliate Alexander’s and managed by Vornado, sold to Macerich in October 2012)[7]
    Las Catalinas Mall, PR
    Manassas Mall, VA
    Monmouth Mall, NJ (co-owned with the Kushner Companies, managed by Vornado)
    Montehiedra Town Center, PR
    Oakdale Mall, NY
    Rego Center, NY
    Springfield Mall, VA
    The Shops On Lake Avenue, CA
    Waterside Place, MA

  • I agree 100%,personally I believe it is to late for this nation it is polluted with innocent blood moral confusion justifying what ALMIGHTY GOD has decreed an abomination and being ran by modern day robber barons-all because of those who have compromised the GOSPEL of GOD.Nontheless our duty stands..GO YE THEREFORE and teach all nations

  • Just waiting for the exit door to open!

    The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 1994 in the case of New Jersey Coalition Against War in the Middle East v. J.M.B. Realty Corporation that malls followed the “historical path of free speech,” in the vein of parks, squares and downtown business districts. It allowed citizens to leaflet both inside and outside malls, but did not endorse other forms of expression such as public speeches.

    Unfortunately it looks like another example needs to be made here. That of free speech.
    When someone is arrested, there had be a VERY good reason. In this case I would recommend suit so that it does not happen again. Both the Police & the Mall if at all possible. (Just think of how many tracts that would provide)
    It is not illegal to ask anyone a question & I hope he took the opportunity to ask the officers also.

    I’ve lived here in Eatontown for over 15 years. What was once a nice friendly community has turned into police state. If you really want to see a joke, sit in on a court day here. I guess they have to raise money some how as they ONLY get $6,000.00 per tax payer per year for picking up their garbage. Exiting ASAP!

  • Mary Beth

    Well,some of you have strayed from the original story.David Wells was NOT “forcing” anything down people’s throats,& I am puzzled at how he could be accused of “interrupting” someone’s experience at the mall ! ( Whatever that means !? ) He was quiet & respectful.He did not badger anyone.If you have been born again,then you have definitely missed the point, which is very sad.My mall experience consists of loud screaming teenagers,cursing & pushing their way through the crowds,walking towards you & not stepping aside,never saying “excuse me”,nor holding a door open for anyone, & as someone mentioned,wearing vulgar T-shirts.Often I have been approached by people asking me if I wanted to fill out a survey in a room down a hallway to the rest rooms ! I have been handed flyers & coupons which I simply ditch in the trash if I am not interested.I was in a store buying a CD a few years ago & an employee noticed my crucifix around my neck & started telling me that it was a horrible way to express my beliefs…gory & distasteful ! I quietly enlightened him,” It’s a reminder of exactly what happened to the Man who died for our sins…Jesus Christ,the son of God.” I was appalled at his behavior & reported him to his employer who probably did nothing.I bet that it was only 1 atheist who complained about Mr. Well’s peaceful question.They know it only takes 1 non-believer to change what the majority believes.This is how they are trying to sabotage Christianity in every area of our lives.Thank you David for standing up for your beliefs ! I admire you greatly & support you 100%.I know you do not want to ” own the mall” but a boycott would bring your case to the forefront !

  • Israel

    Dear brother David,
    I sincerely hope this reaches you. In the early 90’s I was arrested 7 times on the streets of Ocean Grove, once, twice in one day.I appeared many times before judges in Neptune and one time spent 3 weeks in Monmouth County Jail, Freehold (I trust you are familiar with the place), but then was summarily released when they realized they had no case.
    I hope you may be encouraged. Keep up the good fight of faith. Jesus sees all our pious pronouncements about freedoms, while we languish in a bondage of heart and soul. Yes, people will make up many lies about your motives, methods and poor judgment, don’t be dissuaded. Stay free in Christ brother.

  • michael falsia

    We are on the verge of the most concentrated assault the gospel has and will face in this wicked and perverse nation. That God is giving this nation over to its godlessness and sin is quite apparent to me. The only question remains is how will the people of God shall fare under this growing hostility from the forces of government? Are we willing to bear the reproaches of Christ and go outside the camp as it were? Are we joyfully willing to endure persecution for the gospel sake? The world hates us and desires to rid itself from the likes of us anyway it can! It is our privilege to suffer and become one with our Lord Jesus and go in the spirit of the Apostles and all the godly martyrs who surrendered their lives for the truths sake! The true Church has reached a point where martyrdom is longer just reading about those who were burned and imprisoned and tortured and executed for the gospel in history books but may become a living experience that we will face in ways never before imagined in America? Do we have an Hebrews 11 kind of resolve? I trust by the grace of Christ Jesus that we will be able to stand like those who went before us! Fear not those who can hurt the body etc… Remember the words of our savior and be strong even unto death! Here I stand! God help me. Martin Luther.

  • tim

    what people do not know is that they are OTHER religious organizations that preach in this same mall. andthey have written permission to do so which he refused to do.this guy is just being difficult. This is not about freedom of speech. its about respecting your nieghbors rules. MY HOUSE MY RULES! this guy is not setting the right exmple as a proclaimed christian

  • DB

    Does anyone have an update on this case? Thank you.