Valerie Cobbertt noticed differences in her older brother, Gulia Dale, every time he returned from an active-duty tour in Iraq, reports NBC BLK.
“We didn’t know the spectrum of everything he dealt with,” Cobbertt said in an interview Monday. “I would notice loud noises bothered him. I remember he would say, ‘Don’t slam the car door.’”
So it came as no surprise when she learned that Dale, 61, a retired Army major who was activated on Sept. 11, 2001, and who, she said, had post-traumatic stress disorder, was triggered by a barrage of fireworks that were deployed July 4 by his neighbors on Clive Place in Newton, New Jersey.
Dale’s wife, Karen, called 911 that evening because she was concerned about his behavior. She told a dispatcher that her husband had a gun and was leaving their home, according to a recording of the 911 call released by the New Jersey attorney general’s office.
Cobbertt, who filed an internal affairs complaint with Newton police Aug. 5, believes police would have responded differently had her brother been White and not Black.
“His wife called for someone to come and help because she feared that he may take his own life.” said Cobbertt, 52, who lives in Bloomfield. “She called for someone to help. She said it twice. When they came, that was not the case. They murdered my brother.”
Cobbertt and Dale spoke at a vigil held for Dale on Saturday in Newton, a town in Sussex County about 60 miles northwest of New York City. The town’s population was estimated at 8,019 in July 2019, 89.7 percent of whom are White, according to census data. Black people account for 4.7 percent of Newton’s population.
Newton police declined to comment Monday, referring all questions to the state attorney general’s office, which is investigating Dale’s death in pursuance with a state law enacted in January 2019. The law requires the attorney general’s office to investigate deaths that occur during encounters with on-duty law enforcement officers or while the decedents are in custody. The employment status of the three officers who responded is unclear.
Officers Steven Kneidl and Garrett Armstrong shot at Dale shortly after 9:30 p.m. on July 4, the attorney general’s office said. A redacted video released by the attorney general’s office shows that Dale was trying to leave in a pickup truck when police arrived. At that point, “the officers’ body-worn cameras were activated and recording the events that transpired,” the police statement says.
Dale heeded the officers’ commands to get out of the vehicle, according to the statement and the body-camera videos. Dale then opened the rear driver’s side door and briefly leaned inside before he closed the door, video appears to show. He then got in the driver’s seat as officers repeatedly yelled, “Get out of the truck.” According to the attorney general’s office, Dale again got out of the vehicle, this time “with an object in his hand.”
Kneidl and Armstrong then fired their guns at him, striking the vehicle and fatally wounding Dale, authorities said.
A .45-caliber Glock 21 firearm was recovered near Dale, the attorney general’s statement says.
Karen Dale, who could not be reached for an interview Monday, could be heard on the 911 call saying: “The cops are on their way. For you. Because you’re acting crazy.”
Cobbertt said her brother was having a PTSD breakdown, a mental disturbance.
“I think what played a big factor were those fireworks in his area,” she said, adding that they might have triggered his condition.
She said she believes that because of her brother’s race, police took no measures to de-escalate the situation.
“They see us differently. And they treat us differently,” she said.
She also questioned why police responded with their guns drawn.