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Family of Redding attorney suing police, claim son’s death was not suicide

REDDING --  It was around 1 a.m. on April 5, 2014. Redding attorney Abe Dabela was on his way home from drinks at the Black Cat Grill.

Around 1:30 a.m., police received a 911 call for a possible overturned car on Umpawaug Road. Officers arrived on scene and found the 35-year-old shot once in the head.

"The word that comes to my mind is 'suspicious'," said attorney Darnell Crosland, chair of the NAACP's investigation into Dabela's death.

Within five hours of his death, Redding Police called the gunshot wound self-inflicted.

"At the time, there was no ballistics, there had been no autopsy," said Attorney Keith Altman, representing the Dabela Family.

The next day, the medical examiner ruled Dabela's death a suicide.

"It looked more like it was a murder," said Crosland. "It looked more like there was somebody else involved."

Police said Dabela's blood alcohol count was nearly 2.5 times the legal limit. A reconstruction report, released in 2016, determined Dabela was alone in the car, and that the bullet was shot from inside, from Dabela's gun that was recovered at the scene.

Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs, who is currently out on paid leave, told FOX 61 in 2015: "There was very indication that no one else was in the vehicle, and that everything that took place, took place in that vehicle."

Police interviews with family and friends reveal Dabela was struggling to start his own law firm and recently went through a breakup. Some described him to investigators as slightly depressed and paranoid. Others say he was outgoing and talked about his future, as well as plans to go to Boston that weekend.

"Where's the suicide note?" questioned Crosland.

The same reconstruction report could not determine who fired Dabela's gun. His DNA was not on the trigger, and his hands were never tested for gunshot residue. The bullet in question - recovered five days after the incident - contained no DNA.

"That's very unusual for a hollow-point bullet that supposedly passed through somebody's head," said Altman.

An email from the Division of Scientific Services to State's Attorney Steven Sedensky also raised "concerns regarding the evidence."

"The evidence really does not favor suicide versus homicide," said Altman.

Dabela's family is now suing Redding Police, Police Chief Douglas Fuchs, seven police officers, the Town of Redding and the John Doe Killer, claiming Dabela's civil rights were violated.

"The family is looking for answers," said Altman.

Both attorneys say the evidence for suicide just wasn't strong enough to reach a conclusion so soon.

"You do not close a case like this with all the suspicion and deem it to be a suicide," said Crosland.

"Something is just not right here," said Altman.

FOX61 reached out to both Chief Fuchs and Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton multiple times for comment, but never heard back.