On May 15, 2020, the Township of Monroe (Gloucester County) paid $325,000 to a Newfield man who claimed that a road-raged Monroe police officer put a gun to his head after running him off the road.

In his lawsuit, William Fulbrook said that he was driving to work at about 5:30 a.m. on February 17, 2017 when an unmarked police car driven by Monroe Officer Matthew Beurklin “travel[ed] through a red signal, aggressively came around a corner and cut in front of his lane of travel.” A May 17, 2018 news article on this event indicated that Fulbrook “didn’t know at the time . . . that the other driver was a police officer in an unmarked car.”

Fulbrook said that he “flashed his highbeam headlights” at Beurklin in an apparent attempt to register his disapproval at having been cut off. Beurklin, who was wearing plain clothes, responded by pulling over, allowing Fulbrook to pass him and then by following his car “extremely close.” Fulbrook, who said that he was “fearing for his safety,” turned off the road but was followed by Beurklin. Beurklin then “accelerated around the driver’s side of [Fulbrook’s] vehicle and then swerved into [his] lane . . . effectively running [Fulbrook’s] car off the road,” according to the lawsuit.

Fulbrook claimed that Beurklin approached him with his gun drawn, held it “very close to [his] head,” and yelled “Freeze, mother****er! How do you like that mother****er? Now what are you going to do mother****er?” Fulbrook allegedly pleaded with Beurklin not to shoot him.

After about twenty minutes, six to eight marked police cars arrived and one of the uniformed officers wrote Fulbrook some traffic summonses. Fulbrook claimed that the officer apologized to him and explained that Beurklin was “making them write him tickets.” Fulbrook also claimed that all of the summonses were later dismissed in municipal court.

The case is captioned Fulbrook v. Beurklin, et al, Federal Case No. 1:18-cv-08810 and Fulbrook’s attorneys were Kevin P. McCann and Michael J. Fioretti of Bridgeton. Case documents are on-line here.

None of the the lawsuit’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants. All that is known for sure is that Monroe, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Fulbrook $325,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]