Antar Bey’s killing not linked to family politics, police say
By Paul T. Rosynsky, Chauncey Bailey Project
The Bey family was believed to be in the midst of a violent power struggle over control of Your Black Muslim Bakery when then-leader Antar Bey drove his black BMW 745 sedan into a Union 76 gas station at 55th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way two years ago.
Just a year before, Bey, 23, a member of a younger faction of the bakery and son of founder Yusuf Bey, had taken control of the operation days after his predecessor, Waajid Aljawwaad Bey, disappeared. Aljawwaad Bey’s body was later found in a shallow grave. Police believe he was the victim of an assassination.
In June 2005 another family leader, John Bey, had been shot several times in a failed assassination attempt. A group of young men fired shotguns and handguns at him as he ran through his Montclair neighborhood screaming for help.
Even Antar Bey had needed to dodge bullets fired at him, his wife told police at the time. The Bey family seemed to be having a civil war, and Antar Bey was next to die. As he stood near his car talking on a cell phone, a man ran across the street and shot him with a .44 Magnum. But police said a monthlong investigation of his death revealed Antar Bey’s death was not an attempt by feuding family members to gain control of the bakery, but rather a failed attempt by an unknown person to steal his $75,000 car.
On Nov. 8, 2005, Alfonza Phillips was arrested in the slaying as he drove his 1997 Pontiac Bonneville wearing a wig. Two days later he was charged with murder.
Police and Deputy District Attorney Colleen McMahon, who is about to argue the case against Phillips on trial, said they have no doubt the then 20-year-old is the culprit. “I am 100 percent confident that Alfonza Phillips is responsible for (Bey’s) killing,” she said.
But Leonard Ulfelder, a public defender representing Phillips, said his man is innocent.“It is a little coincidental,” Ulfelder said of the killing. “The John Bey thing happened in June and only within a month (of Antar Bey’s death), he was shot at twice.”
On Monday a jury will be selected to decide if the police investigation was complete and if Phillips was the assailant.Police said they have ample evidence to prove Phillips was after Bey’s car and not part of a bakery coup attempt.Close associates of Phillips told police he talked about the slaying in the days after the shooting. Phillips’ fingerprints were found in Bey’s car, and statements from those who witnessed the slaying and footage from a security camera show the shooter was more interested in the BMW than seeing Bey die, police said.
“He made some admissions to some close associates,” an investigator said. “Instead of finishing him off, he ran back to the car and tried to start it.”
Authorities say the witness statements and security-camera footage shed light on the homicide. After stopping his car at the gas pump and placing the nozzle in the tank, Bey stepped away from his car and began talking on his cell phone. Meanwhile, a man at a gas station across the street ran up and pointed a .44 Magnum at Bey, police said.
Bey began to run and the man fired a single shot into the bakery leader. As Bey lay bleeding on the ground, the man ran back to the car and tried to drive it away. But he could not, because the keys were at the feet of the dying Bey. Unable to start the car, the man fled, police said.
Once again, the bakery was in upheaval.
More than two dozen bakery and Bey family members descended on Highland Hospital, where Antar Bey was pronounced dead on arrival. A fight broke out between the crowd and sheriff’s deputies as family members tried to see Bey’s body. A man was arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace by fighting.
The killing left a void in the leadership of the bakery.
Antar Bey took leadership of the bakery in February 2004 when Aljawwaad Bey disappeared.
Aljawwaad Bey had been anointed leader of the bakery in 2003 by founder Yusuf Bey as he lay dying in the hospital from colon cancer. Although he was not a blood relative of the Bey clan, Aljawwaad Bey took the family name as he worked side-by-side with the elder Yusuf Bey.
Aljawwaad Bey had help run the business side of the bakery operation and had his own set of supporters within the group.
But his ascendance to leadership appeared to have angered others in the family, Lorna Brown, an attorney who represented the elder Yusuf Bey on charges of rape and now represents Yusuf Bey IV on charges of vandalism, told a local newspaper at the time.
“There was a lot of confusion and a lot of problems after (Yusuf Bey) died,” Brown told the paper. “There was certainly a division in the family.”
But Antar Bey’s takeover of the organization after Aljawwaad went missing appeared to have pleased others.
Antar Bey was the son of bakery founder Yusuf Bey and older brother to Yusuf Bey IV and Yusuf Bey V, both of whom are in jail on charges of kidnapping and torturing two women in May.
A memorial for Bey created on the social networking site MySpace shows Antar Bey was respected, at least by some in the family.
“If it wasn’t for Antar, everything that our father worked hard for … would probably have died when he died,” one entry reads. “To his supporters, he was ‘Captain Antar.'”
So when police arrived at the gas station in 2005 and found Antar Bey dying on the pavement, there was a natural suspicion that it was an assassination.
At the same time, the type of car Bey was driving, which was outfitted with $5,000 rims, also had police wondering if it was a random carjacking.
News stories from the time show police always left both motives open as they released details of the slaying.
But once more information was found, the assassination suspicion was ruled out.
“(We’re) pretty much convinced (the motive) was a carjacking, although because of prior violence in the organization other theories had to be considered,” an investigator said at the time. “It is a very expensive car that was attractive to a thief.”
But Ulfelder, the public defender representing Phillips, said his client is not a thief or a murderer.
Phillips’ criminal history includes no violent crimes, only a conviction for possession of marijuana, police and Ulfelder said.
Phillips is not a Muslim and is not associated with the bakery in any way, Ulfelder said.
In addition, Ulfelder said, witnesses who said Phillips was talking about the crime are not credible.
One is Phillips’ girlfriend, who Ulfelder said was coerced by police to pin the murder on his client. Another is a convicted felon, he said.
Neither police nor McMahon would respond to Ulfelder’s claims saying all the information will be revealed during the trial.
“I am not going to try this case in the media,” McMahon said. “You can hear the facts of this case during opening statements.”
Opening statements are expected Wednesday.
Tips about this case or the death of journalist Chauncey Bailey Jr. can be sent to CBProject@bayareanewsgroup.com.
For information about the project or its collaborators, contact, Dori J. Maynard of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education at 510-684-3071.