Were Oakland police afraid of Black Muslim bakery?
By A.C. Thompson, Thomas Peele , Cecily Burt, Josh Richman, Bob Butler and Mary Fricker, Chauncey Bailey Project
In the 17 months before the slaying of journalist Chauncey Bailey, Oakland police responded to at least four incidents involving members of Your Black Muslim Bakery where, despite evidence that crimes occurred — including gunfire and threats of violence against officers — no arrests were made.
The four incidents, detailed in police reports and a 28-page search warrant affidavit, raise questions about whether Oakland police were reluctant to confront the religious group, which has been implicated in a string of violent crimes, including the Aug. 2 slaying of Bailey and the May 17 kidnapping and torture of two Oakland women.
Bakery handyman Devaunghndre Broussard, 20, is facing murder charges in the death of Bailey, who was working on a story about the group’s financial troubles for the Oakland Post when he was killed. Shortly after the shooting, police said they didn’t believe Broussard acted alone, though they have yet to charge anyone else in connection with the shooting. On at least two occasions, the documents show, police didn’t make any arrests when they responded to gunshots apparently fired from the bakery’s San Pablo Avenue headquarters.
In another instance, officers investigating a dog attack near the bakery were verbally bombarded with “threats of violence and retaliation by individuals from Your Black Muslim Bakery,” the affidavit stated, but didn’t charge anyone.
A dog that officers believed belong to a member of the group had mauled a college student living nearby.And in early 2007, Oakland police questioned bakery CEO Yusuf Bey IV, 21, and allowed him to go free — even though they knew he was wanted on an arrest warrant issued by Contra Costa County that required police to jail him without bail.Police Chief Wayne Tucker didn’t return a telephone call requesting comment.
Department spokesman Roland Holmgren refused to take questions about the incidents.
“We are no longer talking about this case,” he said.
While officers have wide latitude in deciding when to make arrests, Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid, who heads the council’s public safety committee, was surprised to hear that officers hadn’t hauled Bey IV to jail when he was a wanted fugitive.
“That doesn’t sound right to me,” Reid said.
The incidents date back to March 2006, when neighbors reported “seven or eight gunshots coming from Your Black Muslim Bakery,” according to the affidavit. Police came to the scene but didn’t take anyone into custody; it’s not clear whether they searched the premises.
In September 2006, officers responded to a dog attack at 1085 59th St., a residential duplex around the corner from the bakery that the group owned and used to house its followers. The backyard of that property, which is empty, connects to the back lot of the bakery.
According to police reports and radio logs, a pack of dogs — three pitbulls and a mastiff — belonging to the group attacked a 21-year-old college student living nearby; the woman was taken to Alta Bates Medical Center with a “chunk of flesh” missing from her buttocks.
When officers arrived on the scene, “several individuals from Your Black Muslim Bakery became hostile,” prompting police to call for back-up, the affidavit states. According to radio logs, group members “known to carry rifles” were seen on the bakery roof.
Despite the “threats of violence and retaliation” described in the affidavit — and the student’s injuries — police took no one into custody.
By February 2007, reports show that police were again dealing with the group’s dogs, investigating charges of animal mistreatment.
Officer Frank Gysin questioned Bey IV, who claimed ownership of the dogs and handed the officer his ID card. When Gysin radioed police dispatch, he learned Bey IV was wanted on a arrest warrant and should be immediately jailed without bail.
“But by then,” Gysin’s report states, “the suspect had returned to their compound and could not be found.” A radio log states that Bey “locked himself inside the bakery and refused to come out.”
The report does not say police searched the building for the fugitive.
Evidently, police aren’t eager to share details of the episode with the public. The Chauncey Bailey Project obtained two copies of Gysin’s handwritten report — one came after making a formal request to the department’s records division; the other was obtained unofficially.
Police censored the copy received through official channels: the sentence referring to the warrant for Bey IV’s arrest was blacked out.
On June 30, 2007, a little more than a month before Bailey’s slaying, police stopped Bey IV as he drove past the bakery in a black Dodge Charger with no license plates. By then, Bey IV was no longer wanted by the authorities in Contra Costa. But the car wasn’t insured or registered and Bey’s driver’s license was suspended.
After issuing a citation and having the car towed, officers were preparing to leave when gunfire erupted from the back of the bakery. “As the gunshots were going off, Bey IV asked in a mocking tone, ‘What’s that?'” the affidavit states.
“I heard approximately five large caliber handgun gunshots coming from directly behind (Your Black Muslim Bakery),” Sgt. Kyle Thomas wrote in a report. “I could tell that the gunshots were coming from behind the YBMB and not some other location based on my positioning, (and) my recognizing the direction of fire. I began to instruct all of my officers to tactically retreat.”
Because of the “high probability of violence, the hostile location, and lack of a known victim,” Thomas wrote that he decided not to “pursue the gunshots further.”
“There was an enabling factor,” said one neighbor who lives near the bakery and claimed to have called police dozens of times about the gunfire and persistent problems with the dogs. “The police knew exactly what was happening in that building and they did nothing about it. They were not dealing with it.”
Another neighbor, however, credits the Oakland Police Department for handling a volatile situation with care. “They put their lives on the line. I think they did a good job,” said this neighbor. Both asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from the Muslim group.
In an interview conducted after Bailey’s death, one officer shared his experiences with the organization.
Sgt. Dave Cronin has worked both as a beat cop and as head of the city’s Animal Control Services, where he was deluged with gripes about the bakery’s canines, and was forced to euthanize dogs owned by Bey IV’s half brother, Joshua Bey, who is currently facing felony charges in the May kidnapping case.
Neighbors were afraid that bakery members would find out who had called authorities. And animal control officers who responded to complaints were often confronted by members of the bakery who refused to say who owned the dogs or give them access to the property or the animals.
“I was talking to people around the bakery and the community every day and they would tell us they were afraid to have us come and see them,” Cronin said.
“These were people living in the neighborhood and they were very frustrated with the police department and me for having done nothing about it,” he continued. “But it was a real safety issue. I felt it was a matter of officer safety. I felt we needed a SWAT team to get in there.”