Newton police shooting subject of complaint by victim’s family
The family of Gulia Dale III has joined the NAACP in filing a complaint demanding a thorough investigation into what they called an “alleged, unspeakable execution” by Newton officers of their family patriarch they say had post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gulia Dale III, a Black U.S. Army veteran, was shot several times by officers Steven Kneidl and Garrett Armstrong shortly after 9:30 p.m. on July 4 after family called to report he had a gun and was “acting crazy,” according to a 911 call released by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Dale, after refusing orders to get out of his truck and on the ground, appeared to lift an object believed to be a gun when officers opened fire, striking and killing him, according to bodycam footage released by the Attorney General’s Office. A .45-caliber Glock 21 firearm was found near Dale’s body, authorities said.
But in the aftermath of the holiday shooting outside a Clive Place home, the family of 61-year-old Dale is seeking answers.
Valerie Cobbertt, Dale’s sister, filed the internal affairs complaint with the Newton Police Department on Aug. 5, three days after bodycam and dashcam footage and the 911 call were released.
“The matter should be considered a wrongful death incident,” according to a statement co-written by Valerie Cobbertt, Dale’s sister, and Rick Robinson, the chairman of the New Jersey NAACP Criminal Justice Committee. The statement was sent to the New Jersey Herald.
Dale, who was activated on 9/11 and served active duty in Iraq, struggled with the symptoms of PTSD, a mental health condition where a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, according to the family.
Robinson said by phone Thursday Dale was triggered the evening of the shooting because there were several explosions and firecrackers going off in the area. A neighbor told the Herald that at the time the shooting took place, a barrage of fireworks were being deployed by neighbors in every direction.
The family said they are seeking “clarity” after officers used “highly questionable” engagement techniques and tactics when confronting Dale.
The family also filed a complaint with the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, and are working closely with Robinson, who also serves as chairman of the complaint review board that address misconduct by police officers.
“It is no secret that our nation is grappling with police brutality incidents that has led to the deaths of Black/Brown men and women for decades,” the statement reads. “The state of New Jersey is no stranger to this unfortunate phenomenon.”
In a push for police reform, the family pointed to a bill that would allow towns to create civilian complaint review boards. In June, up to 100 people rallied outside the New Jersey Statehouse when the Assembly was set to consider the bill, but ultimately didn’t take it up to vote. The Senate has not advanced the bill.
The family is also seeking unedited footage of all cameras and a “full investigation” of the officers involved by the state Attorney General’s Office. The family said they are focusing on procedures regarding officers’ “de-escalation” techniques.
“The Dale family is looking for a true account of the matter … that led to the alleged, unspeakable execution of Mr. Dale,” the statement reads.
The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, an arm of the state Attorney General’s Office, is tasked with investigating the shooting.
Newton Police Chief Steven VanNieuwland declined comment and referred all questions to the state Attorney General’s Office. Peter Aseltine, spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said the investigation remains active and said it would “not be appropriate for us to comment.”
Once the investigation is complete, the case will be presented to a grand jury to make the ultimate decision regarding whether criminal charges will be filed, Aseltine said. The family viewed recordings of the shooting prior to public release, he added.
“While we think it is important to provide families with this information, we also recognize that we must strike a careful balance in the amount of detail we make available while the investigation is ongoing,” he said. “In some cases, court rules regarding grand jury secrecy prevent us from sharing certain details about the case with families; in other situations, we are simply unable to provide information about aspects of the case we are still investigating.”
The family will host a vigil to honor Dale at 5 p.m. on Saturday on the Newton Green and all are invited to attend. Robinson will speak and he said he hopes to have someone who can speak on the struggles those with PTSD have. He also plans to invite the Newton police chief and mayor. VanNieuwland did not say if he would attend.
Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.