Fake cruiser unraveled kidnapping, torture, officer says
By Paul T. Rosynsky, Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — A Ford Crown Victoria outfitted to look like an undercover police cruiser helped members of Your Black Muslim bakery kidnap and torture two women but it also led to their capture, a police officer testified Friday.
Had it not been for the fake cruiser, the officer said, he might have never driven near the house where bakery members are accused of torturing one of the women on May 18, 2007.
“It looked exactly like one of the cars I used to drive in the Oakland Police Department,” the officer said. “I began driving toward it to make contact with the officer to see if an operation was going on.”
That’s when the officer, whose name was withheld for his protection, said he heard windows breaking at a house across the street from the car.
The officer immediately focused his attention on the house and heard a woman screaming for help.
“I got out of my police vehicle and began walking toward the house. I still didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I saw a woman run out, she was handcuffed, she had cuts all over her face, on the top of her head, on her arms. She was bleeding.”
Police and prosecutors allege that the woman was tortured by bakery members, including its leader Yusuf Bey IV, 22, his brother Yusuf Bey V, 21, and two associates, Tamon Halfin, 21, and Richard Lewis, 23.
All four are charged with kidnapping and torture in the case and appeared in court Friday for the continuation of a preliminary hearing. A fifth bakery member originally charged in the case, Joshua Bey, 20, agreed to a plea deal earlier this year in exchange for his testimony against the others.
On Friday, the first Oakland police officer who responded to the scene last May talked about how he stumbled upon the torture and what occurred immediately after he arrived.
The officer’s name, however, was kept secret because of what police said were threats made against him by Bey IV during a secretly taped conversation with two other bakery members.
The officer said on the witness stand that the protection was needed because he feared for himself and his family.
“I used to work in North Oakland and I had lots of dealings with the Bey family,” he said. “Every time I made a car stop on a Bey family member, I would shortly be encircled by 50 members of the bakery.”
The officer said he was confused by the situation he stumbled upon last May until he was able to calm one of the women down enough to find out what happened. It wasn’t until she could comprehensively tell the story that the officer said he realized the undercover police cruiser was a fake.
“I was assuming I had a cover unit with me,” he said. “There was a lot of confusion that night, lots of hysteria.”
The officer said the woman told of how she and her mother had been pulled over by what they thought was a police car and apprehended by men carrying guns and wearing masks.
He said he then noticed that another woman was lying in the back of the fake police cruiser with a blanket over her body.
“She was unable to speak,” the officer said of the woman in the car. “She just had a look of horror on her face.”
The officer said he quickly called for backup and medical aid and then did a quick search of the house to see if anyone was still inside. He found no one, but did recover a knife and red chair.
Once more police arrived, the officer said a canvass of the neighborhood was conducted, but nobody was found.
Police said they eventually connected the bakery members to the kidnapping, in part, through the Crown Victoria registration, which was registered to a Bey family member.
Reach Paul Rosynsky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-208-6455.