It may be the first case of its kind in Kern County, one that could have a direct impact on efforts by law enforcement to confront owners of firearms who have exhibited warning signs and are thought to be at risk of dangerous use of those firearms.
On Friday afternoon, Kern County Superior Court Judge Stephen D. Schuett heard hours of evidence in support of a petition to impose an emergency gun violence restraining order on local political activist and cannabis advocate David Abbasi.
The petition, requested by the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office — through two of their officers — would prohibit Abbasi for one year from possessing or purchasing any firearms or ammunition, including an AR-15 assault-style rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, three semi-automatic handguns, and hundreds of rounds of ammo already owned by the 41-year-old.
In a declaration filed in support of the petition, and obtained by The Californian, one of the petitioners, Kern County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Damian Nord, said it is his opinion and the opinion of others in the sheriff’s office, that "David Abbasi is emotionally unstable and poses a threat to himself or others, and that threat is magnified if he is in possession of firearms and deadly weapons."
Abbasi was arrested on gun charges earlier this year after a large pit bulldog attacked and killed his miniature pinscher on April 28 while Abbasi was out walking his dog. Abbasi pulled a loaded handgun and pointed it at a 15-year-old who had struck him in the head while Abbasi was trying to control the attacking dog.
Abbasi told The Californian on Friday that his beloved pet had just been killed before his eyes, that he was afraid the dog would turn on him, when the teen began striking him.
"I thought my life was in danger," he said. "That's why I drew my firearm in self-defense.
"But there was no discharge of the firearm," he emphasized.
He described the teen as 6 feet 2 inches and 180 pounds. "He's not a little kid," he said.
However, Abbasi does not have a permit to carry a concealed firearm. And the incident began a long string of phone calls and emails from Abbasi complaining to police about how the case was being handled and aiming accusations of corruption toward the BPD, the Kern County District Attorney‘s Office, City Hall and others agencies and officials.
Meanwhile, a warrant for Abbasi's arrest and a search warrant for his home and vehicle were obtained. On May 10, Abbasi showed up at BPD headquarters to deliver more evidence. He was arrested and officers found what has been described as an arsenal of guns and ammunition in the trunk of his BMW.
It included his AR-15 with high-capacity magazines, a 9 mm handgun, and dozens of rounds of ammunition.
"Have you ever encountered an individual parked in front of the police department having this kind of firepower ... in the trunk of their car," attorney H.A. Sala asked BPD Sgt. Ted King, one of the witnesses who testified Friday.
"No. Never," King said.
Sala is representing the BPD in the hearing, which on Friday was in its third day.
King, who has a master's degree in homeland security and emergency management, and works as an anti-terrorism liaison with local, state and national law enforcement agencies, was a powerful witness for Sala.
Meanwhile, Abbasi, who is representing himself in court, seemed out of his depth as Judge Schuett sustained most of Sala's objections to his questions.
When Abbasi asked King whether the decision to confiscate his weapons was influenced by powerful officials outside the department, King answered in the negative.
"We did not reach out to anyone else for authorization," he said. "It's not for anyone else to authorize."
Sala also asked King if he was concerned about the way Abbasi has been behaving, and King said he is.
Sala referred to an April 30 meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors where Abbasi spoke emotionally.
According to court records, Abbasi quoted the Samuel L. Jackson character in the movie, "Pulp Fiction" at the meeting.
“I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers," Abbasi said to supervisors. "And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
King said the behavior is consistent with the sorts of pre-incident behavior that is a red flag for officers like him who focus on preventing violence before it happens.
As Abbasi finished that statement, the activist "angrily pointed at the the supervisors in a threatening manner," Nord said in his declaration.
Nord also noted in his declaration that in early May, Abbasi's attorney sent an email to the FBI saying he was concerned for Abbasi’s well-being. A copy of the email was made available to the court.
During several contacts between law enforcement and Abbasi, Nord said Abbasi complained of increasing anxiety, frustration and justification of his own criminal actions. In preceding weeks, Abbasi responded to the Kern County Sheriff's Office to file personnel and other types of complaints.
"I believe he is growing increasingly agitated, frustrated, and is adamant that his complaints be handled in a manner that suits him," Nord said.
The hearing will continue next week, with Abbasi calling his witnesses.
Despite his behavior and his powerful collection of firearms, Abbasi says he has never been a violent person. His advocacy of medical marijuana has made him enemies in high places, he said. And his recent support for a measure on the ballot that would impose term limits on county supervisors has done the same.
"This is political retaliation," he said. "That's what it boils down to."