TRENTON – A state grand jury has voted not to file any criminal charges at the conclusion of its deliberations regarding the death of Richard Belline, 37, of Evesham, N.J., who died on September 6, 2020, after he was arrested by Voorhees Township police officers at the Voorhees Town Center.
The fatal police encounter was investigated by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) and presented to New Jersey residents called to serve on the grand jury in accordance with Directive 2019-4, the “Independent Prosecutor Directive” issued in 2019. In July 2021, OPIA issued standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) to ensure that these grand jury presentations are conducted in a neutral, objective manner, and with appropriate transparency regarding the process, consistent with the Independent Prosecutor Directive. The investigation of this officer-involved fatality included interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video footage from body-worn cameras, and autopsy results from the medical examiner. After hearing testimony and evidence from the investigation, the grand jury completed its deliberations yesterday, April 18, and voted “no bill,” meaning the grand jury concluded that no criminal charges should be filed against any officer involved in the fatal encounter.
According to the investigation, at approximately 2:54 p.m. on September 6, 2020, a uniformed Voorhees Township Police Department officer in a marked patrol car observed Mr. Belline drive at a high rate of speed through the parking lot of the Voorhees Town Center shopping mall and crash into a curb. As the officer approached the crashed vehicle, Mr. Belline exited the vehicle and ran from the officer. After a brief foot pursuit, the officer apprehended Mr. Belline and restrained him. Backup officers arrived and one assisted in handcuffing Mr. Belline. A K-9 officer also arrived on the scene.
After his arrest, Mr. Belline said he did not feel well, requested help, and admitted to using methamphetamine. Officers requested an expedited ambulance, which arrived within minutes and transported Mr. Belline, who was conscious at that time, to Jefferson Stratford Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased at 3:45 p.m. A bag containing suspected methamphetamine was found in the subject’s vehicle.
An autopsy was conducted and the Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was methamphetamine intoxication and excited delirium.
The Attorney General’s Office previously released the identities of the Voorhees Township police officers involved in the incident. Officer Thomas Bordi is the officer who apprehended Mr. Belline. The other officers at the scene were Officers Michael Marchitto, Kenneth Fowlkes, and Jack Kluk.
A 2019 law, P.L. 2019, c. 1, requires the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody. It requires that all such investigations be presented to a grand jury to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer or officers involved.
A conflicts check was conducted pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and no actual or potential conflict of interest was found involving any individual assigned to the investigation. Prior to presentation to the grand jury, the investigation was reviewed by OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher in accordance with the policies and procedures established for these presentations in the SOPs.
At the conclusion of these investigations, pursuant to the Independent Prosecutor Directive and SOPs, OPIA determines whether any principal should be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for administrative review in accordance with the AG’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures. OPIA monitors any resulting review and takes such actions as are necessary to ensure that the review is completed in a timely fashion, and that appropriate actions are taken based on the results of the review.
The Independent Prosecutor Directive is posted on the Attorney General’s website at this link: https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/ag-Directive-2019-4.pdf
Further information about how fatal police encounters are investigated in New Jersey under the directive is found at this link: https://www.njoag.gov/independent-prosecutor/