By Tyler Williams
(Photo Credit: Valerie Dale Cobbertt)
For certain people in the United States, July 4th is a day of celebration of freedom, liberty, and justice for all Americans upholding the ideals of the Constitution. However, what happens when the United States fails to protect the people who served to fight for the nation?
North Jersey reported in August 2021 that Gulia Dale III, 61, who was a retired U.S. Army major, served three tours in Iraq, was shot and killed in front of his home by Newton police on July 4. After his wife, Karen Dale, called police because she feared her husband, who suffered from post-traumatic distress order, was contemplating death by suicide. "July 4 for vets is not a good day at all," Karen Dale said. "I called police to help him — not to murder him”, according to North Jersey.
The NJ Herald stated that three Newton officers arrived at the home in response to a 911 call and Dale was shot by Newton officers Steven Kneidl and Garrett Armstrong outside the home, authorities said. Neighbors around the area claimed that they were unaware of the incident. Jackie Battista, local neighbor, said the following quote: “I think the gunshots just blended in with the firework noise," Battista said. On the Law and Crime website, a graphic video was released by New Jersey authorities which showed the killing of Dale who was allegedly armed in front of his home. The video warns viewers that the content is graphic and viewer’s discretion is advised.
A vigil is held in Newton, NJ on Saturday August 21, 2021 for Gulia Dale III, a U.S. Army veteran who suffered from PTSD and was killed by police outside his Newton home on July 4 of 2021. Dale's widow Karen Dale (right) is comforted by Dale's sister Valerie Cobbertt (center) and daughter Tori Dale. (Credit: Anne-Marie Caruso/NorthJersey.com)
According to family members, the police officers were unaware of Dale’s mental condition. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to his sister Valerie Dale Cobbertt. Milkscope spoke with Cobbertt to express her thoughts regarding her brother’s unjust death. Cobbertt is a long-time resident of Essex County where she grew up in Montclair and Orange, New Jersey. She gives back to her community by being a teacher for over 20 years. When asked about her personal account regarding this tragedy, Cobbertt stated the following: “They may not have realized he was suffering with PTSD but none of the arriving officers made it their business to find out after the 911 call for help went out.”
An update regarding this case is that it will go to the Grand Jury and to the Essex County Courts, according to Cobbertt. In April, Cobbertt mentioned she attended a speaking engagement that headlined the new Attorney General for New Jersey. The acting Attorney General for New Jersey, Matt Plaktin, reassured Cobbertt that her brother’s case is going to the grand jury; all shootings that invoke police automatically go to grand jury now.
Valerie Cobbertt, sets up for a vigil in Newton, NJ on Saturday, August 21, 2021 for her brother Gulia Dale III, a U.S. Army veteran who suffered with PTSD and was killed by police outside his Newton home on July 4 of 2021. (Credit: Anne-Marie Caruso/NorthJersey.com)
When asked what needs to be done to improve police training and procedure, Cobbertt told Milkscope the following: “In my brother's case, more training with mental health and how to deal with people of color who are having a mental breakdown.” She has also mentioned that ethnic sensitivity training needs to take place in all departments city, county, and state. “Administrative leaders must be included as well so they are aware of what their officers are getting to help to preserve life, not take it”, said Cobbertt.
This year, a vigil was held on July 2nd by family members and community leaders honoring the memory of the fallen major, according to NJ.com, “They should have responded in a different way. They should have given him more than seconds and allowed him the same time they gave to Edwin Green”, said Cobbertt. NJ.com stated that six months earlier before Dale’s tragic death, Edwin Green, a veteran suffering from mental health issues, also had an interaction with police after a 911 call. Green fired two shots at the responding officers, but he was not fired upon by the police. Instead, surrounding businesses and schools were shut down.
Newton police worked to de-escalate the situation. Green was taken to Overlook Medical Center in Summit for mental health treatment before any criminal charges were filed. The 80-year-old veteran lived to see another day. Dale only had seconds left to his life when the police showed up at his residence, said NJ.com. “I, along with some community leaders, intend to create a hotline to help individuals cope with mental health and listen to them. We need more of this”, expressed Cobbertt.
To contribute assistance and support for the family members of Gulia Dale III, use Venmo (@DaleGulia704) and CashApp ($Valcobb6) set up for Dale's case. “The money will be used in a way that will allow the family to continue his fight for justice by hosting rallies, memorials in Dale’s name, t-shirts, and wristbands to eventually to set up a foundation in his name”, Cobbertt stated. Moreover, the foundation plans to give away scholarships for those who suffer with PTSD and aspire to attend college seeking a degree in business administration like he achieved, according to Cobbertt.
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