For nearly three decades, Gulia Dale III, 61, called Newton, New Jersey home. On the Fourth of July, the Black military veteran was shot and killed by police in front of his residence. His wife, Karen, had called 911 to report that her husband was “acting crazy,”–and she mentioned that he had a gun.
It was no coincidence that Dale appeared to suffer mental problems on the Fourth of July. That is the night synonymous with fireworks and other celebratory explosions. Dog owners know the noises send many canines into a panic. What is not as well known is that many people with PTSD, especially veterans of war zones, experience terrible flashbacks from such loud bangs. Dale had issues with PTSD, and the sounds may have sent him over the edge.
Dale's sister, Valerie Cobbertt, says that the Newton Police Department should have sent a crisis team due to her brother's mental condition. Instead, he was shot and killed within 12 seconds of the White officers’ arrival.
911 Call and Video Footage Released
On August 2, the 911 call, police body camera video and mobile video recorder footage was released by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. According to a statement from the AG’s Office, the Newton Police Department officers who fired their guns at Dale are Officer Steven Kneidl and Officer Garrett Armstrong.
Three officers responded to the 911 call about 9:30 p.m. on July 4 as Dale tried to back his truck out of his driveway. One officer blocked the truck from the front. A second police car arrived and pulled up behind, pinning the truck in the driveway. An officer is heard yelling and telling Dale to get out of the truck and onto the ground. Dale leaves the truck, opens a rear door, and reaches inside. He gets back into the driver’s seat and then quickly gets out, facing an officer. He has an object in his hand, and is shot.
A .45-caliber Glock 21 was found near Dale’s body.
Race Played a Role
Cobbertt says she does not like to say that race played in her brother’s death, but it did. A similar situation in Newton just a few months earlier involving an 80-year old White man ended very differently. Newton police responded to a call from an older man threatening suicide with a gun, stating he was in the parking garage beneath the Newton Town Centre.
The officers found the man sitting in a chair in the garage, holding a .22 caliber gun to his head. Officers tried to talk with him. He actually shot at the officers twice, although the bullets did not land near the police. The man then got in his car and drove away, although officers tried to prevent the vehicle from leaving. The man was followed to the Newton Medical Center, where, still armed, police officers wrestled him to the ground and took him into custody. The release from the police department notes “throughout the encounter officers used exceptional restraint, and no officer discharged their firearm.”
That is not the way it ended for Major Dale. All New Jersey police officers must undergo de-escalation training as part of a use of force policy. The officers involved with the suicidal White man acted on this training. The ones involved in the Dale shooting did not.
A Decorated Veteran
Dale was a decorated Army and National Guard veteran. He served in the Army for 42 years, retiring with the rank of Major. A former supervisor at the Picatinny Arsenal recalled Dale as “brilliant” and “very kind” said that he often struggled with loud noises because of his PTSD. Bombs and weapons are tested at the arsenal, and Dale was often visibly upset. He would put his headphones on to drown out the sounds.
The officers who shot Dale joined the police department recently. Both are back on duty after time off for a health evaluation
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