A Fullerton high school history teacher who was jailed this week when police -- acting on a tip -- found a shotgun and marijuana in his car in the school parking lot was the “victim of an elaborate setup,” police said Thursday.
Investigators are now convinced that Gregory Abbott, 31, of Placentia, who has taught at Sunny Hills High School for seven years, is innocent and was actually a victim, said Sgt. Mike MacDonald of the Fullerton Police Department.
Detectives want to talk to Abbott’s estranged wife and a male friend. MacDonald declined to identify them, calling them “persons of interest at this time” and not suspects.
Abbott was pulled out of class Tuesday by officers who asked if they could search his car. An anonymous person had phoned police to report that he had purchased drugs from a teacher at the school named Abbott, who kept a weapon in his vehicle. The telephone call was made from off campus.
MacDonald said Abbott was cooperative from the beginning and gave officers permission to search his car. They recovered an unloaded shotgun, about a gram of marijuana and prescription drugs packaged as if for sale. Abbott was arrested without incident and taken to the Fullerton City Jail, where he posted $25,000 bail. He said the gun and drugs were not his, and a follow-up investigation “revealed he was telling the truth,” MacDonald said.
Police said that they are still conducting a criminal investigation but that the focus is now on who framed Abbott. “You could say the investigation has taken us in a different direction. We felt a duty to be impartial and fair, checking out Abbott’s story,” MacDonald said. “We’re happy that the results vindicated him. He’s had a tough week.”
Reached by phone Thursday, the teacher agreed. “I’m a lot better today,” he said. “I feel extremely grateful to the people who were with me through this time, especially the Fullerton police, who did an amazing and professional job by investigating to get to the truth.”
He said he didn’t blame them for arresting him, but that the ordeal seemed surreal. “Nothing even close to this has ever happened to me,” Abbott said. “I come from a good family with a good background; to have the police come tell me that there’s a shotgun in my car -- I can hardly believe it even now.”
Times staff writer David Haldane contributed to this report.