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‘He Just Needed Help’: Family of New Jersey Veteran Fatally Shot by Officers Files ‘Wrongful Death Complaint,’ Demands Transparency and Thorough Investigation

The family of Army veteran Gulia Dale III has filed a wrongful death complaint a month after the father of three was fatally shot by police.

Dale, who is Black, was shot multiple times by officers responding to an emergency call at his Newton, New Jersey, residence on the evening of July 4. According to family members, the 61 -year-old suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and being activated for duty during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It is believed that the loud sounds of celebrations and fireworks may have triggered a PTSD episode.

The family of Black New Jersey veteran Gulia Dale filed a wrongful death complaint with Newton Police for the 61 year-old’s death. (Photo: Newton Police)

“We didn’t know the spectrum of everything he dealt with. I would notice loud noises bothered him. I remember he would say, ‘Don’t slam the car door,’ ” said Dale’s sister, Valerie Cobbertt to NBC.

On the night of the incident, Dale’s wife, Karen, called police when she noticed her husband “acting crazy” and taking possession of his gun as he contemplated leaving the home. “The cops are on their way. For you. Because you’re acting crazy,” said Karen on a recording of the 911 call. She feared Dale was going to take his own life and hoped police would be able to intervene. 


The recording, which was released by Attorney General Andrew J. Bruick’s office, shed light on Karen’s concerns as she urged the dispatcher to send help. “She called for someone to help. She said it twice,” said Cobbertt. “When they came, that was not the case. They murdered my brother.”

Three Newton officers arrived at the house within minutes of being dispatched. Dale had just barely pulled his car out of the driveway when he was surrounded by police cruisers. 

Officers can be heard commanding the veteran to “get out of the truck” repeatedly in bodycam footage, also released by the attorney general’s office on Aug. 5. Dale complied with with commands. He exited the vehicle, but only to open the passenger door, retrieve an item from the backseat, and then return to the driver’s seat. 

What happened next cost the veteran his life. 

The footage shows Dale again exiting the vehicle and then pointing an item, later determined to be a .45 caliber gun, at officers who immediately opened fire, striking the 61-year-old. A statement from the attorney general notes that Officers Steven Kneidl and Garret Armstrong both fired their weapons. 

The redacted footage of the incident shows two officers immediately began administering emergency care to Dale, who lay motionless in they roadway in front of his home. The officer seen administering CPR can be heard saying, “I got no pulse.” 

Cobbertt believes her brother’s death could have been prevented had the officers responded to the situation differently. As a result, she joined forces with the NAACP in demanding more transparency about the incident, and that a thorough investigation of the shooting be completed.

“The Dale family is looking for a true account of the matter that led to the alleged, unspeakable execution of Mr. Dale,” said the family and the NAACP in a statement to The New Jersey Herald.

The family hopes not only for more clarity regarding the officers’ lack of de-escalation tactics, but also that the investigation lead to some sort of police reform. In the past year the public has cried out for that very reform across the country as more footage shows people of color dying at the hands of those enlisted to ‘protect and to serve’ their communities. “The state of New Jersey is no stranger to this unfortunate phenomenon,” continued the statement.

“He just needed help,” said Cobbertt. “If they would have approached him differently, he would still be alive.”

The case is currently still being investigated by the attorney general’s office. A grand jury will ultimately decide if any charges will be filed against any of the officers involved in the incident.

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