Bailey killing figure had troubled youth
By Josh Richman, Thomas Peele and Bob Butler, The Chauncey Bailey Project
Whether or not one believes Devaughndre Broussard killed Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey on a downtown Oakland street last August, Broussard’s 20 years clearly have been a litany of woes.
He spent early years in foster care while his drug-dealing mother did prison time. He was in a San Francisco home for troubled kids for a while before spending what might’ve been his childhood’s most stable years in the most dangerous neighborhood of Richmond, perhaps the West Coast’s most crime-ridden city. Family and friends have done time behind bars; he earned his own jail time by beating and robbing a man.
Then he joined Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland, finally finding someplace he felt wanted and accepted, a part of something important, bigger than himself. Now that place has led him either to committing a cold-blooded killing or to temporarily taking the rap for one he didn’t commit.
So whether or not one believes Broussard leveled that 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun point-blank and pulled the trigger three times to snuff out a man’s life Aug. 2, it’s easy to believe Broussard truly believes at least one thing he told a national television audience in a “60 Minutes” interview aired in February.
“The people you love is the ones who’re gonna hurt you the fastest,” he said.
Broussard’s attorney, LeRue Grim, would not allow his client to be interviewed. Broussard, who was 19 at the time of the killing, has been charged with murder in connection with Bailey’s death. Broussard, a bakery employee, confessed to the crime but recanted.
Yet for all the media attention surrounding the case, little is known about Broussard.
Reconstructing Broussard’s childhood isn’t easy; his isn’t a family that can produce a photo album, a shoebox of keepsakes, a folder of old report cards. At best, family and friends offer a few dog-eared photos and hazy recollections of his life’s dates and places, like a jigsaw puzzle with too many missing pieces.
Devaughndre Moniq Broussard was born Oct. 11, 1987, at San Francisco General Hospital, the son of Eric Broussard, 23, and Aundra Dixon, 21. His father was out of the picture pretty soon, and when her son was only 10 months old, Dixon began an 18-month state prison term for drug sales and he began the first of several foster care stints.
A girlfriend who attended some of Broussard’s early court appearances said this might’ve set the tone for his life: He’s one of many people she knows who lived in foster homes where “parents” were more interested in the monthly county check than in their foster kids.
“And when you don’t have that father figure, that mother figure in your life, it hurts,” said the girlfriend, who asked not to be named. “It hurts not to have that person in your life to talk to, and you’re all alone and you know somebody gets paid to take of you and don’t do it right.”
Broussard stuttered as a young child. Relatives said this contributed to a somewhat reserved demeanor, and he stutters now when nervous.
Dixon got out of prison in early 1990. She said she got her son back after attending parenting school, anger management and drug counseling. She soon became pregnant by Marcus Calloway; Mariecea Calloway, Broussard’s half-sister, now 17, was born that December. They all lived together on Fillmore Street in the Western Addition of San Francisco until Calloway and Dixon separated about 1992.
“We made a promise to one another that no matter what we went through I wouldn’t keep the kids from him and vice versa,” Dixon said.
Dixon said her son, who attended Grattan Elementary School for some years, was a fast reader who often got ahead of his classmates; he enjoyed basketball, baseball and rollerblading despite being “kind of clumsy,” she said, and always tried to keep himself neat and clean.
Dixon was arrested again in 1995 or 1996, and Broussard went back into foster care. Dixon returned to state prison at the beginning of 1999, convicted of assault with a firearm. Calloway took their daughter, Mariecea, to live with him, and went to court to have Broussard deemed his foster son.
“He was in foster care when she went to jail “… but then they sent him to Edgewood,” Calloway said, referring to San Francisco’s home for emotionally disturbed children from bad family situations. “That’s where I got him from. I had to do a year of visiting before I could take him home.”
‘An amiable kid’
Broussard went to live with Calloway in a modest house within sight of railroad tracks converging at the top of Richmond’s bleak, violent Iron Triangle; he went to Helms Middle School and Richmond High School. A Richmond High teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he hadn’t realized the boy he knew five years ago is the alleged killer in recent headlines.
“I never had a complaint from him,” the teacher said, noting Broussard had a 1.78 grade point average, about a C-minus. “His class rank was 322 out of 403. “… He was an amiable kid, no problem really.”
It’s a far cry from the “A student” Calloway claims his stepson was, although Broussard did stand out from the crowd at times.
In his sophomore year, he was the school chess club’s only African-American member; Calloway says he taught his stepson how to play.
Broussard was in the school’s Human Services and Health Academy, which introduces students to “helping” careers in medicine, teaching and counseling, public safety and law enforcement.
“He wanted to be a police at one time,” Calloway recalled, “but I guess that ain’t going to happen.”
And toward the end of his 10th-grade year, in May 2003, Broussard won an investment portfolio competition for high school students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business; the prize was a $100 savings bond.
But he wouldn’t finish the 11th grade.
Back to San Francisco
“He never was out in the streets, I never let him,” Calloway said, breaking down in tears after about 45 minutes of stoically discussing his stepson’s life. “All my kids, I tried to send them to school because I wanted them to be better than I was. I was trying to get him into a university, but then his mom came home and he went to her, and that’s when he got into trouble.”
Calloway said Broussard wanted to spend more time with Dixon, who had been paroled from state prison in October 2002 and was back in San Francisco. Anyone apart from his mother for so long “would want to see her and spend some time with her,” he said. “I figured that’s what he needed to do, to get to re-know her.
“You know, even though she was doing what she was doing, she’s always been a good mom,” Calloway said. “She provided for them even if she wasn’t there all day, y’know, she still made sure they had clothes and everything else. “… It’s just that she just got caught up in the life, y’know?”
Calloway said Dixon’s extended family “was gangsters and all that type of stuff, so hanging around his cousins and all that type of stuff just influenced him to hang out.”
Dixon praised Calloway: “I believe Marcus did the best he could with both my children. If I had it to do over again I’d have him as the father of all my children.”
She said she told her son when he was 16 or 17 that he’d have to get a job if he wanted money in his pocket, as she already was working two jobs to put food in her three kids’ mouths and a roof over their heads. She said she tried to keep him in school but he was a “rebellious teenager.”
“I let him have his space until I started putting my foot down,” she said. “I was trying to teach my kids to go in the opposite direction from what I did, from the life I’ve led.”
Asked whether her criminal past affected her kids’ lives, she replied, “At some point it may have, but as far as the conversations me and my children have had, we’ve reached a happy medium. “… What happened has happened “… and my personal life is not anybody else’s business.”
In March 2005, Dixon reported to San Francisco Police that Broussard, then 17, had been missing for four days from their Bayview District home and that he had run away twice before. He returned two days after her report, but she reported him missing again that May, this time for five days. She told police he might’ve run off because she had punished him for cutting more than a month of classes at Balboa High School. He turned up six days after that report, and at least briefly went to Huckleberry House, a program for runaway and homeless youths.
That same month, he was convicted of a second-degree robbery in Belmont; details aren’t available from the sealed juvenile court file, but he did time in juvenile hall and had to pay restitution and a fine.
Court files show a San Francisco Human Services Department social worker in June 2005 had been “assigned to investigate Aundra Dixon, mother of three minor children, for physical child abuse,” but she’d threatened to come to the social worker’s house and “f— him up.” Given her record, he took it seriously; he was removed from the case and got a restraining order that doesn’t expire until next month. The social worker and his agency wouldn’t comment for this story.
Dixon said Broussard was at a stage where he didn’t want to abide by her rules, and in a fit of pique he had made the abuse report to county officials that prompted the social worker’s visits. She said the social worker’s claim of a threat was overblown, although she acknowledged losing her temper with him.
Dixon was arrested again in September 2005 after officers found heroin and cocaine on her and in her house. A month later, Broussard — less than three weeks past his 18th birthday — and several juveniles assaulted art student Christopher Hall, then 20, aboard a Muni bus full of Halloween revelers, robbing him of his iPod, wallet and money. The attack was recorded by a surveillance camera. Hall didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
A police report of Broussard’s Nov. 14 arrest says he was then a student at Ida B. Wells High School in San Francisco, a “continuation school” for students for whom a mainstream school hadn’t worked. Charged as an adult with robbery, battery and assault with a deadly weapon, he pleaded guilty to the latter and in February 2006 was sentenced to one year in county jail, with credit for 103 days already served.
While he was in jail, police searching Dixon’s home in April 2006 seized more crack and heroin, cash and a .22-caliber handgun. She went to state prison that July, and was released May 29.
Broussard spent time behind bars with Richard Lewis, whom Calloway said his stepson knew from their San Francisco childhoods; Dixon said she and Lewis’ late mother were close friends and the boys played together often. Lewis at the time awaited trial on a murder charge, accused of being the getaway driver in a 2005 drug robbery-slaying in San Francisco.
Lewis also goes by Rakeem Kahlil Bey, and Calloway said it was he who convinced Broussard to seek work at Your Black Muslim Bakery upon his release. The bakery was founded in the 1970s by the late Yusuf Bey on principles of African-American self-reliance, and was one of the few places the formerly incarcerated could find easy work. But the bakery, which has gone bankrupt and is now dissolved, also has been linked to a number of violent incidents.
Lewis is jailed again now, too; he; bakery chief executive officer Yusuf Bey IV, 22, the son of bakery founder Yusuf Bey; and three others are charged with kidnapping and torturing two women in Oakland in May 2007, just 15 days after Lewis’ acquittal in the San Francisco case.
OuOut of jail, Broussard began visiting probation officer Will Robinson, who called him “likable” and “very cooperative.” Most of Robinson’s probationers are 18 to 25, and “sometimes there’s a general reluctance to accept direction,” he said. “Mr. Broussard was very respectful. I don’t think we had too many episodes of ‘tough love,’ so to say.”
Broussard later told Robinson he’d gone to work at the bakery.
“I really wasn’t taken aback when he told me had joined,” Robinson recalled. “He presented himself as someone who was looking for something positive in his life, so when he told me, I just accepted it as, ‘OK, at least he’s not involving himself with the criminal element.’ My knowledge of the Black Muslims is that they were actually trying to steer in the right direction, so it didn’t strike me as odd.”
Ditto for Tanya Shaw, an aunt by marriage on Dixon’s side of the family.
“I encouraged him, and I told him I thought it was a good idea” based on what she knew of the bakery’s history of community work, she said.
Calloway agreed his stepson “went to the Muslims thinking that they was going to help him. “… That’s the only reason he went there, ’cause he was looking to change his life.
“You know what I’m so mad about? I encouraged him to go the Muslims, ’cause I was a Muslim myself, but I didn’t really look into what type of Muslims they was,” Calloway said, having assumed the bakery was like a Nation of Islam mosque to which he’d belonged in the late ’70s. “Then I found out they was a whole different type of Muslims, but it was too late then.”
Family friend Mojo Dumetz said Broussard worked long hours for the bakery as a handyman, janitor and security guard but was paid little; he periodically asked Dumetz or relatives to bring him a few dollars so he could buy food. Calloway said his son quit the bakery for some time last spring and summer, incensed by the lack of pay.
San Francisco Police rousted Broussard twice in May 2007 for loitering in a Western Addition area known for drugs; a judge that June ordered Broussard to stay away from the area. Court documents at the time said Broussard at first told officials he was living with Calloway but later said he was living on the street; there’s no mention of the bakery.
Broussard was enticed back to the bakery with promises of pay and better treatment, friends and relatives say.
“He ended up back there because he couldn’t get a real job because of the criminal history he had,” his girlfriend said.
Weeks later, on Aug. 3, Broussard, was arrested and charged with Bailey’s slaying. He first denied involvement, then confessed, then recanted, saying Bey IV — his spiritual leader, less than two years his elder — had ordered him to take the fall, telling him he was being tested by God.
Broussard’s relatives say he was brainwashed and coerced into taking the rap.
Dixon said her son recently wrote her a letter saying he “was trying to have a good surprise for you when I got out” — that he was “not playing on the streets no more” and instead had been “taking care of my business like a man” by working at the bakery — until “some crazy stuff happened.”
“He went and got connected with some people that he thought was good leadership and had a good direction in life”… and yet he got caught up in some mess,” she said. “Even if he did know about what was going on, he wouldn’t be angry enough to go and gun a man down in the street — I know my baby, he wouldn’t do that.”
His probation officer also finds it hard to believe Broussard pulled the trigger: “Kids rarely go from a simple, low-level wannabe (gangster) to someone defending the name of the Muslims by stalking and killing someone,” Robinson said.
Josh Richman and Thomas Peele are staff writers at Bay Area News Group — East Bay. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Bob Butler is a freelance journalist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.