Chauncey Bailey Project

Commentary: State Attorney General Jerry Brown should investigate journalist’s slaying

Peter Keane, dean emeritus of Golden Gate University Law School
Peter Keane, dean emeritus of Golden Gate University Law School

The Contra Costa Times

AS QUESTIONS MOUNT about the Oakland Police Department’s investigation of the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, including whether the cops have bungled the inquiry and whether the case’s lead detective has been protecting a key suspect, it’s time for state Attorney General Jerry Brown to take over the inquiry.

Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post, was working on a story about Your Black Muslim Bakery when he was gunned down early in the morning of Aug. 2, 2007, in downtown Oakland. Police quickly arrested Devaughndre Broussard, a 20-year-old bakery handyman and charged him with the murder. But eyewitnesses say the gunman did not act alone.

Now, a new report by the Chauncey Bailey Project — a reporting consortium of news organizations including MediaNews — reveals that bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV said in a secretly recorded police video that he kept the gun used to kill Bailey in his closet after the attack. On the video, Bey describes the shooting in detail, then, laughing, denies he was there. He also boasts that his friendship with the lead investigator, Sgt. Derwin Longmire, protected him from charges.

Indeed, the sawed-off shotgun used to kill Bailey was stolen in November 2005 from a liquor store Bey and several followers are accused of ransacking. Although Broussard told police the gun was his, he was actually in jail in San Francisco when the gun was stolen and had not started working at the bakery.

The videotape and other police documents obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project indicate that Bey was involved, “that he was very likely the person who orchestrated the entire thing,” says Peter Keane, a veteran criminal lawyer and dean emeritus of Golden Gate University Law School who reviewed the evidence. “Why isn’t he charged as an accessory to the murder? There’s enough there that he should be charged, in my opinion.”

We wonder the same thing, and we can’t help but think police have botched the case. We also wonder about the connection between Bey and Longmire. According to one of Bey’s lawyers, the detective had become like an older brother and mentor to her client after the two met in 2005 when Longmire investigated the shooting death of Bey’s brother.

Whatever the relationship between the bakery leader and the detective, it’s seems that the police have overlooked key evidence that points to Bey. For example, Rigoberto Magana, the owner of the white van used in the killing told police that early that morning Bey came and borrowed the keys to the vehicle. Bey gave the keys back about 25 minutes after the shooting.

Perhaps of greatest concern are the circumstances surrounding Broussard’s confession to the shooting. At first, while in custody, the handyman denied involvement. Then police talked to Bey. Longmire asked him if Broussard “was instructed by you to be honest about what happened, to tell the truth about it, do you think he would do it?” Bey was then sent in by police to talk to Broussard — alone. The seven-minute conversation was not recorded. After it was over, Broussard confessed, telling police he acted alone.

Bey indicated later, in the secretly videotaped conversation, that he pressured Broussard during those seven minutes. That’s exactly what Broussard’s lawyer now claims as he insists his client’s confession was coerced. We’ll never know what went on during that conversation, but we do know it was, at best, incompetence on the part of the police to allow the two men to meet alone.

The murder of Bailey is the most prominent killing of a journalist in the United States in three decades. The Oakland Police investigation has been going on for more than 10 months now. Thus far, all investigators have to show for it is the arrest of a suspect who clearly did not act alone — if he was involved at all. With evidence showing strongly that others, including Bey, were likely involved, and with the allegations of a close relationship between Bey and the lead detective, it’s time for some fresh eyes to look at the case. The attorney general should step in.

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