Suit claims cops conspired to cover up murder of lawyer, a Second Amendment advocate
A lawsuit filed by the estate of a Connecticut lawyer claims police officials in Redding dragged their feet in approving his concealed carry permit, then conspired to cover up his murder a year later by declaring his death a suicide.
The federal suit (PDF), filed on Tuesday by the estate of lawyer Gugsa Abraham “Abe” Dabela, suggests he had irked local officials and describes a mysterious text message, deleted after his death, that read “turn he just didn’t.” Defendants named in the suit include Redding police officials and “killer John Doe.”
Dabela, 35, died as a result of a gunshot to his head during the early morning hours of April 5, 2014, nearly one year to the day after obtaining his gun permit, the suit says. The bullet entered about one inch behind his right ear. He was found inside an overturned Mercedes SUV about two miles from his home. It is unknown whether he was murdered before or after the crash, according to the suit.
Within five hours, police declared Dabela’s death a suicide in a press release.
Police took no photographs before removing Dabela’s body from the car and never tested his hands for gun residue, according to the suit. A shell casing was found, but no bullet was recovered from the scene during the initial investigation. Police later found a bullet at the scene, but it had no DNA or blood on it, indicating it wasn’t the bullet that killed Dabela, according to the suit. DNA on Dabela’s handgun did not belong to him. In addition, a muddy shoe print was found on the back of Dabela’s jacket.
The suit describes Dabela as a gregarious Second Amendment advocate who helped would-be gun owners with legal issues and sought clients with property tax grievances against the town of Redding.
He didn’t obtain his concealed-carry permit until he complained to the state’s commissioner of emergency services and public protection. Two nights before his death Dabela had a heated argument with a town finance official, the suit says. Two months before his death, police responded to a triggered security alarm outside Dabela’s home.
On the night of his death, Dabela visited two restaurants and a local sports bar where he handed out business cards for his new solo practice. Virtually every witness who saw Dabela reported he was “in his normal jovial spirits that evening,” according to the suit.
The suit theorizes that Dabela’s killer fired Dabela’s gun so police would find the bullet at the crime scene, and the killer removed the actual bullet that killed him.
The suit claims police would have conducted a proper investigation if Dabela, an African American, had been white. The suit claims police violated Dabela’s constitutional rights by delaying his concealed carry permit, failing to investigate his death as a murder, and conspiring to cover up the murder.