Post’s publisher gives IDs of men who threatened him to police
By Thomas Peele, Martin G. Reynolds and Mary Fricker, Chauncey Bailey Project
Oakland Post publisher Paul Cobb turned over to police on Thursday the names of two former associates of the defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery who another man claims offered him money to set Cobb up to be killed.
Cobb remained under police protection Thursday night and said he was satisfied with what was now being done to ensure the safety of him and his family.
The man, who has a criminal record, says he was approached near Lake Merritt on Wednesday afternoon by the two men. He refused to give their names to officers himself Thursday. It was unclear what protection — if any — police were giving the man. The Chauncey Bailey Project is not identifying him out of concern for his safety.
The man knew the two men, he said, from several years he spent working at the bakery in the 1990s. He said he gave the information to Cobb because the paper’s editor, Chauncey Bailey, whom another bakery associate is charged with killing on Aug. 2, had often shown him kindness.
Cobb gave the names first to police Chief Wayne Tucker during a phone call Thursday and then to a uniformed officer in another phone call after 7 p.m. Neither Tucker nor the department’s spokesman, Officer Roland Holmgren, returned numerous e-mails and telephone messages Thursday.
A spokesman for Mayor Ron Dellums wouldn’t comment on the situation or say whether the mayor was aware of the situation.
“I have informed the police of the names,” Cobb said Thursday night.
He also said he was frustrated it took officers more than 21/2 hours to respond when he first called police and said he had the information.
The man who gave it to him said he is scared and is considering leaving the region. He said he never considered anything other than taking the information to Cobb, in part because he considered Bailey a friend and saw him shot to death on Aug. 2.
“Chauncey was a beautiful person, man. He’d sit with me and buy me a cup of coffee,” he said.
Often hurrying past large photos of Bailey that cover the newspaper’s walls, Cobb got the Post, a weekly, to the printers Thursday, a day later than usual.
He said he tried to run his business in the midst of talking to the media, and worrying about his safety and whether his newspaper could survive another financial downturn.
His voice-mail had filled with calls from reporters, well-wishers and people concerned about his safety. Some even thought he had been killed.
Cobb said this incident has made him seriously reflect on his situation.
“I thought about it (Wednesday) night, making some plans. I stayed up all night,” he said.
Scenarios of what to do ran through his head, he said.
“Should I get out of the business, merge with someone or leave town for the safety of my wife and family,” he said.
Cobb said he and his wife worry about each other. She worries about him and, in turn, he worries about how much she’s worrying about him.
It’s a cycle of stress brought on by a fear for his life, compounded by the economic blow Cobb said his newspaper has taken and continues to take in the wake of Bailey’s killing.
He’s now what he calls “the highest paid paperboy in America,” because without an editor to oversee much of the editorial portion of the operation, he’s had to take on many roles — even delivering a paper to a reader who was passed over.
The much-publicized killing of Bailey and the threats that followed have made replacing Bailey difficult, Cobb said.
He spoke of a recent meeting he had with a prospective editor who declined to accept the position. It’s the fear factor, Cobb said.
“These (candidates are) experienced people and could have hit the ground running,” Cobb said. Instead, they hit the road.
The same goes for recruitment of advertising staff, he said. Nobody wants to work for a newspaper where the editor was slain and ongoing threats continue to emerge, he said.
Unlike when threats were made to him in the wake of Bailey’s death, he said he hadn’t seen any overt police presence since making the call to Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker on Wednesday. He admitted he was concerned.
During the day Thursday, Cobb made inquiries through channels and got word that seemed to put him at ease.
“The chief of police assured me he would respond to my request for security,” Cobb said after getting a call from an unidentified person. “He has (responded) and I now feel more comfortable than I did when I called him (Wednesday night). The chief has kept his word.”
When asked why he thought the threats, which appeared to have simmered down in the months following Bailey’s killing, have re-emerged, Cobb said the good investigative work being done by various media outlets has kept the pressure on.
Cobb said people who may have wanted Bailey dead and who may or may not be subjects of ongoing investigations could be worried as the “rumor mill” churns, in part fed by front-page spreads in newspapers.
All the fervor around the case feeds the paranoia for people “who maybe not even be being looked at,” he said. Despite all of this, Post offices still serve as a place where the community comes to offer tips and leads about the case.
Cobb said he hopes the media continues to “drill down beneath the surface,” even if that takes the investigation into unsavory territory. As he has said since Bailey’s death, he hopes other news organizations continue pursuing the unfinished work of Bailey about the bakery and around allegations of police corruption.
Up until now, Cobb said, “this investigation has raised more questions than it answers.”
Oakland tribune reporter Kelly Rayburn contributed to this report. Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the Chauncey Bailey Project. Martin Reynolds is managing editor of the Oakland Tribune. Mary Fricker is a reporter for the Chauncey Bailey Project. Reach Peele at 510-208-6458 or Tpeele@bayareanewsgroup.com.