Family and community members gathered on Saturday July 2 to honor the memory of retired Army Major Gulia Dale III who was tragically killed by Newton police officers on July 4.
They held a memorial in Newton where Dale lived with his family and held a procession to his resting place to honor the decorated Army veteran on the first anniversary of his death.
Dale suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which became evident to his family when he returned from several tours in Iraq. Family members said they believe fireworks from nearby homes may have caused flashbacks of fighting that triggered a mental health crisis, leading his wife Karen Dale, who feared that he does not hurt himself, to call the police for help.
Three officers arrived outside Dale’s house. Their body-worn cameras were activated and recorded the events that transpired. A quick exchange of commands was shouted at Dale, then officers Steven Kneidl and Garrett Armstrong fired their guns, killing the 61-year-old decorated war veteran outside his home. A .45 caliber Glock 21 firearm was recovered near Dale.
Valerie Cobbertt is Dale’s sister. She says her brother worked for the Pentagon and owned a legally registered gun. “They never asked who made the call,” she said. “They should have reacted differently. They should have given him more than a few seconds and given him the same time they gave Edwin Green.
Just six months earlier, Edwin Green, a veteran with mental health issues, had also had an interaction with police after a 911 call. Green fired two shots at responding officers, but the police did not shoot him. Instead, surrounding businesses and schools were closed. Newton police worked to defuse the situation. Green was taken to Overlook Medical Center in Summit for mental health treatment before criminal charges were filed. The 80-year-old veteran lived to see another day. Dale had seconds to live when the police showed up at his residence.
New Jersey veterans suffer disproportionately from mental health issues. Thirty percent of military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health issues. Dale was one of those veterans.
The police kill a significant percentage of black men with mental illness. A report published last year said: “A growing body of evidence shows that deaths at the hands of the police have a disproportionate impact on people of certain races and ethnicities, indicating systemic racism in policing. “, according The Lancet.
“Police are untrained in de-escalation and unfamiliar with the symptoms and presentation of severe mental illness,” according to a report by Dr. Brooke Stroud of the Center for Cognitive Therapy. “Police are stepping up already agitated people with techniques that rely on strength and ready-to-action attitudes.”
Dr. Matthew Barry Johnson, a psychology professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the City University of New York Graduate Center, has joined the ranks of the Dale family in a fight for justice.
“Police preventable deaths are a recurring problem in New Jersey. Gulia Dale was killed in 2021 after her family called for help,” said Johnson, who also represents the New Jersey chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists. “Dixon Rodriguez was killed by Perth Amboy police in 2013 in the same circumstances. Omar Perry was killed by Maplewood police in 2007. On this occasion, a July 13, 2007 Star-Ledger editorial called on authorities prevent this loss of life.
When there is a homicide involving an officer, the attorney general’s office must be brought in to investigate.
“We are with the family and will support the family in any way we can as the situation still resonates with injustice,” said Rick Robinson, NJSC NAACP/Newark President and Co-Chair of the State’s NAACP Criminal Justice Committees. “We will be contacting U.S. Attorney Salinger about this and Attorney General Matthew Platkin regarding the status of the investigation. We believe the family suffered and there was no justice for them.
Dale’s sister has spent the last year working on projects to help veterans with mental health issues, including setting up a hotline for family and community members to get immediate feedback and referrals for mental health services. She says the family will also set up a scholarship fund for students who, like her brother, are studying business administration and/or have a mental health condition or PTSD.
Army Maj. Gulia Dale III was a true son of New Jersey who served his country throughout his career. He attended Montclair Public Schools and graduated from Orange High School in 1979. Immediately after high school he joined the United States Army and served at Fort Devens until 1982. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Kean University in 1987.
After receiving an honorable discharge from the Army, he joined the US National Guard and served for 25 years, retiring in 2004. Dale was activated for combat after 9/11 and served three tours in Iraq.
He went on to earn his Masters of Science in Management from St. Elizabeth University in 2008 and worked as an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officer at the Pentagon and Picatinny Arsenal.
Dale was married, had a family and owned a home in Newton where his life ended on July 4th.
Ande Richards is new to New Jersey. She wants to hear from New Jersey’s communities of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ communities, and those who feel underserved by mainstream media. It can be attached to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @andichards.
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