Nearly five years have passed since the murder of Attorney Abe Dabela. But some previously unpublished information may remove some of the moss growing over the story of his tragic death.
Leafy, prosperous Redding, Connecticut, which sits near the middle of Fairfield County, was originally named “Reading,” not because of an especially literate population but because of one lawyer named John Read.
Read would help define the town’s boundaries in 1767, but soon after the town was named after him, a decision was made to change the spelling to plain, easy-to-pronounce Redding, obscuring reference to John Read – and literacy. Citizens were left with a name that strongly suggests the color red.
It hardly seems fair to Mr. Read. But there are far worse examples of injustice in Redding involving the color of blood.
A recent one concerns the death of a lawyer named Gugsa Abraham (Abe) Dabela, found dead in his crashed Mercedes SUV near his home in Redding at 2:11 a.m. on April 5, 2014.
In the website named for him (justice4abe.com), Dabela is described as “gregarious” and “outspoken.” He was also witty and diligent. With a master’s degree in public health and a law degree under his belt by 2012, Dabela passed bar exams in New York and Connecticut. He was preparing applications for admission to the Maryland and D.C. bars, and had every reason to be gregarious and outspoken and witty and confident. But he would practice law for only a year before falling victim to a killer.
Three stops and a text message. Shortly before his death, 35-year-old Dabela visited two local restaurants within minutes of his home: the Little Pub in Ridgefield and the Black Cat Grille in Redding, both solid establishments with loyal clientele. It was later revealed (by friends of Dabela) that he also visited another pub, The Lumberyard Pub and Sports Bar at 2 Main Street in Redding (now permanently closed), although the police mysteriously omitted this information.
Map showing the restaurants Dabela visited the night of his death, Courtesy of Google Maps ©2019
At about 12:03 a.m., Dabela received a text message, which read: “turn he just didn’t.” The Yoda-like syntax was mysterious enough. Adding to the mystery, according to the case file and a report based on it by Crime Watch, the sender’s cell phone information was deleted after Dabela’s death, while the phone was in police custody.
The crash at Umpawaug and Mallory. While driving back to his home, Dabela swerved for unknown reasons, turning his SUV on its roof. He was pronounced dead less than a mile away from his home, not as the direct result of the crash, but from a gunshot wound to the back of his head.1 Whether the bullet was fired before or after the crash has never been determined, but the driver’s side window was completely shattered, and at the time he was shot, Dabela’s head was positioned near that window.
The crash site itself – on the corner of Umpawaug Road and Mallory Lane – merits close attention. Dabela was traveling north on Umpawaug toward his home on Indian Hill Road. (See map below.)
As speculated by researcher Anne Berg, the site would provide a perfect location for a staged accident, with the perpetrator blocking off Umpawaug and secreting his vehicle on Mallory, then just lying in wait to shoot through Dabela’s car window either before or after the crash.
Perhaps Dabela just didn’t turn in time to avoid the blockade, as presaged by the text message.
A case of police negligence. According to official sources :
- Dabela’s blood alcohol level was 2.5 times the legal limit for driving.
- Dabela was in possession of a firearm at the time of his death.
- The gunshot wound was to the back of Dabela’s head.
- Dabela committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot: this was the official conclusion before an autopsy was ever performed.
- There was no suicide note.
It was also revealed by police that an anonymous 911 caller reported a rollover crash at about 1:36 a.m. without stopping to help Dabela.
But police negligence at the crime scene was the real shocker. It was so blatant, in fact, that Dabela’s family filed a lawsuit in April 2016, suing the town of Redding and various members of the Redding police department on 10 counts of civil rights violations. You can find the PDF of the case filing here.
Among the defendants were Douglas Fuchs, Redding’s chief of police; and seven of Redding’s police officers (Ryan Alcott, Mark DeLuca, Peter Quinn, Timothy Succi, Brandon Kaufman, Brittany Salafia and Michael Livingston).
The suit hinged on the family’s belief that Dabela’s case was mishandled and the murder covered up because of racism (Dabela was African-American), an opinion shared by the Connecticut NAACP, which assisted in the family’s investigation.
Other possible motives, while touched on, have not (in this writer’s opinion) been sufficiently explored, such as the fact that Dabela made no secret of his political views, which favored the second amendment and private property rights; and other opinions, which we shall explore later.
The case file includes a full account of what happened according to the plaintiffs. Here are some of the most glaring anomalies it reveals:
- Dabela had no physical or mental health issues and no history of erratic or self-destructive behavior. Reports from those who observed him at the pubs the night of his death reflect a man in good spirits. And he had made plans with his landlord for a motorcycle ride the following day. Why, then, would he have committed suicide?
- Dabela’s hands were never photographed and tested for residual gunpowder, as would be expected after such a death. Why? (His hands were originally bagged for this purpose, but later washed without residue testing. His jacket sleeves tested negative.)
- A gunshot wound to the back of the head is normally attributed to homicide, not suicide. Why did the investigators rule out homicide even before the autopsy? Other facts contradict the suicide theory: The bullet entered the left side of Dabela’s head, yet Dabela was known to be right-handed.
- A muddy footprint was found on the back of Dabela’s jacket. It’s hard to imagine how it could have been Dabela’s. Whose was it?
- Dabela’s DNA wasn’t found on the trigger he allegedly pulled. The tests were performed twice with the same negative results.
- Using a metal detector, the police found a bullet near the crime scene four days after the crash, but it wasn’t the bullet that killed Dabela. The bullet that entered his head was never found. A firearm was found in the SUV along with the spent shell casing of a .40 caliber bullet and a bullet hole in the back of the driver’s seat.
- Hair evidence was found on the inside of the passenger window in Dabela’s vehicle, but was never tested for DNA or compared with other DNA evidence.
- The police who discovered Dabela’s body in the vehicle neglected to secure the vehicle or establish a perimeter around the site to protect against evidence contamination. They did, however, place police tape around the entrance to Dabela’s apartment.
- Whether Dabela was murdered prior to or after the crash is still unknown.
More injustice. In June 2017, Danbury state’s attorney Stephen J. Sedensky, III ruled unequivocally that no homicide had occurred. Sedensky had already achieved notoriety as the overseer of the official report on the Sandy Hook incident, a document loaded with inconsistencies.
Sedensky’s ruling on Dabela’s death did not silence Dabela’s family who, in late 2018, were still seeking DNA samples from three firefighters who were later determined to have been at the crime scene.
According the Dabelas’ attorneys, “[Abe] Dabela had been intimidated by Redding firefighters at a local bar a few weeks before his death.” Note that. It will become important below and in Part 2 of this series.
Rights infringed. Dabela had been the owner of two firearms that he was licensed to carry, but that distinction was not easily won. In Connecticut, obtaining a gun permit means taking an NRA-approved course, obtaining references, visiting a local police department to be fingerprinted, submitting to an FBI check, visiting the state police to obtain the permit, and paying generously at each stop.
From the Dabela vs. Redding lawsuit, we learn that Dabela was an outspoken gun rights advocate. In January 2013, he appeared at Redding’s police department with the requisite documents to obtain permits to carry concealed pistols. Despite meeting all of the requirements, Dabela’s application was delayed. The Chief of Police, Douglas Fuchs, told him that his references would have to be interviewed individually.
Pistol permits normally take eight weeks to process in Connecticut. So when Dabela’s permit was still in limbo by April 2013, he complained in writing to Reuben Bradford, who was then the commissioner of Connecticut Dept. of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Bradford lit a fire under Fuchs, who approved the permit shortly afterward.2
Up until his death, Dabela advocated for complainants with gun permit issues. From the case file: “Mr. Dabela had notable victories in Milford, Connecticut four months prior to his murder, and Stamford, Connecticut two weeks prior to his murder.”
Dabela’s other activities included motorcycle riding, frequenting local town hall meetings and conversing with locals about tax grievance issues. This was a person who talked – a lot – about political hot topics in public places and who helped people whose basic rights were being undermined. There’s nothing wrong with that. The question is whether it got him killed.
It may have been premonitory that Dabela began regularly carrying a gun during the last two months of his life.
An altercation. According to the case file, Dabela had a “heated argument” with a town finance official about property taxes two days before his death. To date, the police have not released the identity of this person.
Which town was this person from? Stamford? Milford? Redding? Newtown? Was this person ever investigated? Disagreements in bars between men usually erupt over women, money or sports. Perhaps a property tax squabble didn’t seem like an incident worth pursuing to the police.
A connection to Sandy Hook. Redding police chief Douglas Fuchs, a principal defendant in Dabela vs. Redding, was a Newtown resident who sent his children to Sandy Hook school.
After hearing a police evacuation exercise at the school on his cruiser radio, Fuchs says he responded to the shooting himself. He was interviewed by his alma mater, Brandeis University, about the role he played at Sandy Hook. According to the excerpt below, Fuchs was among the movers and shakers after the incident:
“Over the next 10 days, as Newtown’s police department recovered from the trauma, Fuchs, whose own children had attended Sandy Hook, managed a massive law-enforcement operation in support of the Newtown police and community. He supervised nearly 1,000 police officers from across the state who provided security for the schools and the victims’ families; escorted families to and from funerals; and handled the media, gifts and onlookers descending on Newtown.”
After the shooting, Fuchs says in the same article that he worked to reform gun laws, specifically to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds. He is quoted as saying that “limiting magazines changes the game in a mass shooting. It’s something we can do that will save lives.”
Obviously, such reforms would have done nothing to save Dabela’s life. And it’s doubtful that Dabela would have agreed with Fuchs’s position if the two men had, say, walked into a bar and conversed.
Officer Death. Fuchs ran into more legal trouble over a suicide case in April 2016, when he allegedly prevented paramedics from helping a Redding man in extremis, claiming the shed where he tried to hang himself was “a crime scene.” The man, Peter Valenti, showed faint signs of life later, but died in the hospital. While an investigation was conducted over a lawsuit filed by Valenti’s family, Fuchs was put on administrative leave. Touchy-feely stories about Fuchs training guide dogs began to appear around that time. But Fuchs remained on leave until his early retirement in June 2018.
A phone conversation with Wolfgang Halbig. About three weeks before his death, Abe Dabela contacted Wolfgang Halbig, using a burner phone.
Following is Mr.Halbig’s account of the exchange (bracketed information is mine):
“He asked me if I could buy one [a burner phone] since he does not trust anyone in town.
“He wanted to know my thoughts on Sandy Hook. He read my 16 questions and he had concerns.
“We spoke and it appeared that I might be able to ask him to represent me with my CT FOIA requests, and never heard back from him.”
Mr. Halbig’s 16 questions3 were provocative enough for Dabela to make contact around the same time that he was alleged to have had an unpleasant encounter with three Redding firefighters. Coincidence? If so, why did Dabela feel compelled to use a burner phone?
Readers should mentally bookmark questions #10-12 on Mr. Halbig’s list (see below). These questions will become important in Part 2 of this series. But the entire set of questions is relevant and, in my opinion, should be regarded as evidence in the shooting death of Abe Dabela.
Shoeless in Redding. The novelist, satirist and social critic Mark Twain built his final home in Redding, CT and called it Stormfield. (You can see how closely situated it is to Abe Dabela’s final home and the crash site in the maps above.) Twain would live in Stormfield for a brief two years before his death in 1910, about the same amount of time that Dabela had in his modest garage apartment on Indian Hill Road.
Two witty but very different men from different times, and perhaps they would not have seen eye to eye on much. But I think Twain and Dabela would likely have agreed on the following quote by the former:
“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
The truth, in this case, is still trying to find its socks.
H/T: Anne Berg, Alison Maynard, Wolfgang Halbig and Tony Mead
The author is indebted to all of the above-named, but particularly to Anne Berg, whose astute observations and research led her to suggest a potential connection to Sandy Hook in the tragic death of Atty. Dabela long before anyone else was willing to consider it. You can find her expository article here.
1 It isn’t clear who declared Dabela dead.
2 It’s interesting to note that a letter from Bradford accompanied files released by the CT State Police in December 2013 on the Sandy Hook incident. Bradford said in the letter that the Sandy Hook investigation was closed. He would retire in the same week, after three years as “the first African American to lead the state’s largest police organization.”
3 Wolfgang Halbig’s 16 Unanswered Questions That Demand Truth on Sandy Hook first appeared on SandyHookJustice.com. They follow:
- Who directed the New Haven FBI field offices to classify [in the sense of restricting access to information about] the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting on Dec 14, 2012?
- Why would the FBI classify the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting when they did not classify the Columbine shooting, which also was a mass casualty shooting incident?
- Who on Dec. 14, 2012 was the Incident Commander (as required by the Federal Emergency Management Administration) in directing the mass casualty shooting incident at the Sandy Hook Elementary School?
- Who on Dec. 14, 2012 at the Incident Command Center made the ordering of porta potties a high priority, since they were delivered within 3 hours of the school shooting?
- Who ordered those porta potties from Southbury, Ct?
- When I called the porta pottie company after searching for over a week as to who and when they were ordered, I was told that it is classified and they are not allowed to share that information with me.
- The next morning I received a phone call from the Southbury Police Department at my home telling me not to call that company again since I was harassing them.
- High priority for toilets — but not for Life Star Trauma helicopters or paramedics?
- Why did they not request Life Star helicopters, knowing that children and school staff were seriously injured and clinging to life? Who made the determination not to request them?
- Why did they not allow the paramedics and the EMTs inside the Sandy Hook School to treat the seriously injured or those children and school staff clinging to life? Who made this decision?
- Who declared all 20 children and six school staff members legally dead within the first 8 minutes?
- Who was the Certified Environmental Bio-Hazard Decontamination company contracted by the Newtown Public Schools to remove 45–65 gallons of blood, skull fragments, brain tissues, bodily fluids, blood-soaked carpets and any other materials to be decontaminated inside the Sandy Hook School?
- Why does an off-duty lieutenant from the Newtown Police Department refuse to leave his off-duty work assignment at a construction site on Dec. 14, 2012 when hearing that shots have been fired at the Sandy Hook Elementary School?
- Who at the Newtown Public Schools notified in writing (as required by CT law) all of the parents who had children attending the Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as every school staff member every school year of all the potentially life threatening chemical hazards? The school had high levels of lead paint throughout the entire building, asbestos in the ceiling and floor tile, asbestos in the insulation and very high levels of PCB.
- Who provided the urgent medical care to the two children who were not transported to the Danbury Trauma Center until an hour after the school was deemed safe for that 15-mile drive?
- Who treated those two children who had been shot multiple times (three to 11 times) since they did not allow the paramedics and EMTs inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School?
- Why did the parents of the two children who died at the Danbury hospital not allow their children to donate their organs to other children waiting for the gift of life?
- What happened to the 500 children and 60 school staff members from Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012? No videos show any evacuations.
- Who was the police officer calling in to the Newtown Police dispatcher stating in his words that he has multiple weapons, he has a rifle and a shotgun — and who had that rifle and the shotgun (as the chain of evidence should show) that was found in classroom eight (8)?
- At 9:45:21 am on Dec. 14, 2012, why would a police officer by the name of Lt. Vanghele from the Newtown Police Department after finding a kindergarten female child in the hallway make her go into room eight (8) and leave her? Room eight is a gruesome crime scene with dead children and school staff. Why?
- Why would two CT State Troopers enter room ten (10) at 9:55:31 am on Dec. 14, 2012 — a gruesome crime scene with dead bodies of children and school staff – and tell a kindergarten boy they found in the bathroom (whose name is redacted, but who is referred to as “them”) to stay and they will be back when it is safe?