Family of late attorney Gugsa Abraham “Abe” Dabela demands accountability for disgraced police chief’s pattern of mishandled investigations
Lawyer for murdered resident’s family questions
whether Redding’s inaction on police chief in 2014 eventually led to Peter Valenti’s death
Redding, Conn. (August 21, 2018)—An attorney for the family of the late Gugsa Abraham “Abe” Dabela, the young African-American attorney who died in 2014 under suspicious circumstances in Redding, Connecticut, is demanding that the town explain glaring discrepancies in its response to two recent high-profile death cases he says were botched by disgraced Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs. Fuchs recently resigned after presiding over the inept police response to the 2016 suicide of Redding resident Peter Valenti—one which may have cost the young white man his life.
Dabela family attorney Xavier R. Donaldson **pointed to the fact that the Town of Redding launched an investigation into the Valenti case and disciplined Fuchs but has chosen to continue to stand behind the former police chief in Dabela’s case, issuing a statement of support and continuing to defend the Redding Police Department’s actions in an expensive protracted litigation. In the Valenti case, the town was quiet until the body-camera footage was leaked to the press, while in the Dabela case, a press release was immediately issued by Fuchs asserting that the death was self-inflicted before an autopsy was conducted. Most telling, according to Donaldson, is the availability of first responder body-camera footage in the Valenti case, whereas the Redding Police Department has not provided any body-camera or dashcam footage from the scene of Dabela’s death—despite the department having had the technology at the time, and using it to record the police visit to Dabela’s home the day after his death.
On April 11, 2016, after texting friends to call the police to his home, Valenti hanged himself. A Redding policewoman who arrived on the scene initially thought Valenti was a dummy; yet when they realized he was indeed human, former Redding Police Chief Fuchs ordered police not to cut him down, according to news reports. EMTs were initially prevented from checking on Valenti, based on an erroneous rush to judgment that Valenti was already dead. When the EMTs were finally allowed to check him, Valenti still had a pulse and might theoretically have been saved if emergency care were not delayed.
Two years prior to Valenti’s death, Dabela was found dead in his overturned car in the middle of the night with a gunshot wound through the back of his head. His driver side window was shattered and his jacket had a muddy footprint on the back of it. Despite the Town of Redding’s public statements to the contrary, the medical examiner has testified that the autopsy provides absolutely no scientific basis for a suicide conclusion, but rather that this determination was based solely on information received from Fuchs’ office.
Dabela’s family has continued to challenge the Redding Police Department’s actions and the conclusion of suicide.
“This is a tale of two cases in black and white, both botched by Fuchs. While it appears that the disgraced police chief was investigated and pushed out for his recklessness in the Valenti case, the Town of Redding has closed ranks with Fuchs in Dabela’s case, possibly casting the die that led to Valenti’s tragic death,” said Donaldson. “Was Dabela the canary in the coal mine? Fuchs’ actions and inaction in Dabela’s case changed what should have been a thorough death investigation into a suicide investigation, coloring the outcome and possibly letting a killer go free.”
In April 2016, days before Valenti’s fateful suicide, the Dabela family filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Connecticut against Chief Fuchs, the Town of Redding, Connecticut, and several officers from the Redding Police Department, alleging civil rights violations surrounding both his treatment by the department before his death and during his death investigation as well as a conspiracy to cover up his murder.
The Dabela family has issued a $125,000 reward, in hopes that in the wake of the Fuchs’ resignation there may be whistleblowers and witnesses who will come forward with information. Those with information can share it anonymously via http://www.justice4abe.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the case or to spread the word, follow #Justice4Abe on Facebook and Twitter (@Justice4Abe).