Gulia Dale, a Black army veteran, was killed by Newton police officers outside his New Jersey home on July 4th after his wife made a 911 call about Dale’s mental state and that he had a gun. But Dale’s family and local civil rights organizations are calling out the officers’ response that night and now, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is investigating the shooting.
According to CNN, Dale’s sister, Valerie Cobbertt, says the 61-year-old was suffering from PTSD, and loud noises, such as the fireworks that night, had triggered him.
Dale’s wife, Karen, told the 911 dispatcher that her husband was “acting crazy” and had left the house with a gun. In edited videos released by the attorney general’s office, CNN reports, Dale was about to leave in his pickup truck when Officers Steven Kneidl and Garrett Armstrong arrived.
Here’s what happened, according to CNN:
The videos show police arriving at 9:30 p.m. as the pickup truck backs out into the street. One of the officers is heard shouting “Get out of the truck” several times followed by “Get on the ground.” The driver exits the car, opens the door to the back seat, leans in and then reenters the cab. It is unknown whether he picked up anything from the back seat.
When Dale pops back out of the car, he has something in his hand, according to the attorney general’s preliminary investigation. That’s when officers Steven Kneidl and Garrett Armstrong opened fire.
Dale collapsed to the pavement, with the driver’s side door of his truck left open.
“He’s dead, he’s dead. Got a gun, got a gun,” one of the officers can be heard in a body-worn camera video.
Dale was declared dead at the scene, according to the preliminary report.
A .45-caliber Glock 21 firearm was found near Dale’s body, according to a statement from the attorney general.
Cobbertt has now filed an internal affairs complaint with the Newton Police Department and is requesting the release of unedited body camera footage and the names of the third officer and 911 dispatcher. She believes that more could have been done by police to help her brother.
“He was struggling with mental imbalance and was struggling with PTSD that night,” said Cobbertt, who added that loud bangs, especially fireworks on the Fourth of July, often left Dale feeling rattled.
“He wasn’t himself, so that’s why she called for help, like any person would do. Any normal family member would call for some help for their family member,” Cobbertt told CNN on Wednesday. “And they’re expecting to get help with a crisis team, but that’s not what my brother got that night. He got police officers, untrained and guns flaring out of their holsters.”
Rick Robinson, chairman of both the Newark Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Newark NAACP Criminal Justice Committee, organized a vigil for Dale on Saturday. He drew a comparison between Dale’s death and another case.
Back in January, according to NBC, the same police department responded to a call about Edwin Greene, an elderly white man who was suicidal and in a parking garage with a gun.
When authorities arrived, Greene was sitting in a chair in the garage next to his vehicle holding a small caliber handgun to his head, according to police. Officers closed off the area and tried to speak to Greene, police said. While they were “in the process of establishing a rapport” with him, he is alleged to have fired a .22-caliber handgun twice in the officers’ direction.
None of the officers were struck, but one suffered a minor leg injury. Greene then got into his vehicle and fled “despite several officers attempting to block his exit and gain entry to the vehicle as it sped away,” police said.
Police were able to restrain Greene outside of a hospital and seize his gun. He was charged with attempted murder and is currently in county jail. Robinson says Greene “was given the privilege of being arrested after he assaulted the police.”
According to NBC, Steven Young, the president of the National Action Network of South Jersey, says that the police forget they are civil servants. He has made efforts to set up a meeting between Cobbertt and the attorney general.
“We got the 911 call stating that he needs help, not to be assassinated,” he said about Dale.
“We’re torn apart. We’re broken. Our heart is like in pieces,” Cobbertt said, according to CNN. “He should still be here with us. This didn’t have to happen.”