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Relatives of a retired Black Army major allege that mental health and race were factors in a fatal shooting by police at the victim’s New Jersey residence after a Fourth of July fireworks display.
On July 4, 2020, officers from the Newton Police Department responded to a call, which had been placed by a woman, according to a statement by the attorney general’s office. She told them she was concerned about the behavior of her husband, 61-year-old Gulia Dale, who was armed with a gun.
“The cops are on their way. For you,” Karen Dale can be heard saying. “Because you’re acting crazy.”
Moments later, at around 9:30 p.m., officers fatally shot Gulia Dale in front of their home.
Three days after the attorney general’s office released graphic body-worn camera footage from two of the three officers on the scene, Gulia Dale’s sister filed a complaint with the Newton Police internal affairs department.
“His wife called for someone to come and help because she feared that he may take his own life,” Valerie Cobbertt told NBC News. “She called for someone to help. She said it twice. When they came, that was not the case. They murdered my brother.”
On Aug. 2, 2020, the attorney general’s office released the redacted 911 call made by Dale’s wife, along with the edited body-worn camera footage of uniformed officers Steven Kneidl and Garrett Armstrong that captured the shooting. The footage from a third unidentified officer was not released because he did not fire his weapon.
Rick Robinson, chairman of the Newark Civilian Complaint Review Board, commented on the unreleased footage in an interview with NBC News.
“The video shows two officers,” said Robinson. “But it was really three officers. It doesn’t show the entire footage of the entire matter.”
According to the attorney general’s office, Dale was attempting to leave the residence in his vehicle when police arrived.
“The officers gave Mr. Dale verbal commands to get out of the vehicle and Mr. Dale got out,” the statement reads. “Mr. Dale then opened the rear driver’s side door, briefly leaned inside, and then closed the door. Mr. Dale subsequently got in the driver’s seat, and officers continued to give verbal commands for Mr. Dale to exit the vehicle. Mr. Dale got out once again with an object in his hand.”
The video showed the seconds-long exchange between officers and Dale.
“Officer Steven Kneidl and Officer Garrett Armstrong discharged their duty firearms, striking the vehicle and fatally wounding Mr. Dale,” the attorney general’s statement continued. “Investigators recovered a .45-caliber Glock 21 firearm near Mr. Dale. Officers and emergency medical personnel rendered medical aid to Mr. Dale at the scene.”
Dale was pronounced dead at the scene.
Graphic body-worn camera footage of one of the officers shows Dale not complying with law enforcements’ commands. After shots were fired, officers raced to Dale’s body when the officer is heard repeating that he’s “got a gun.”
Family members believe Dale had PTSD after spending 30 years in the military, including during Operation Desert Storm, according to NBC News. They claim local fireworks triggered a mental health disturbance.
“If you’re a veteran and you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, when you hear all these guns, these fireworks and all that, it brings triggers back to your mind of being in a war zone,” Steven Young, president of the National Action Network of South Jersey told NBC News. “We got the 911 call stating that he needs help, not to be assassinated.”
According to Dale’s sister, his race also played a factor in the shooting.
“They see us differently,” Cobbertt told NBC News. “And they treat us differently.”
Gulia Dale served in both the U.S. Army and the National Guard before retiring in 2004, according to an online obituary. His service included tours in Iraq as well as employment at The Pentagon.
The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability is currently investigating the incident.
The current employment status of the police officers remains unclear.
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