Commentary: One Tainted Investigation
COMMENTARY, The San Francisco Chronicle
More than a year has passed since Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey was slain. The net result is the jailing of the alleged shooter, a handyman for the once dangerous and now disbanded community group, Your Black Muslim Bakery.
But the case has always reached more deeply into Oakland’s institutions. Along with a measure of political respect and support in glory days, the bakery received special treatment from an unlikely source: the police, whose investigation of the killing has left some disturbing questions about competency and favoritism.
This pampering, which the group’s leader boasted about within days of Bailey’s murder, was outlined in an extensive story in the Chronicle last year.
But now fresh and disturbing details are carefully drawn in new disclosures by the Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaborative of other Bay Area news organizations looking into the death of reporter investigating the bakery’s criminal activities. The conclusion deepens the sense that Oakland police – in particular a top officer with long ties to the group – effectively allowed a coverup of Bailey’s death.
It’s a serious insinuation but so are the allegations. For example, the car belonging the bakery’s leader, Yusuf Bey IV, was bugged with a tracking device to mark its movements. This previously undisclosed information showed that Bey’s car went to Bailey’s home in the early morning hours shortly before the journalist was slain.
Also, the police had logs of Bey’s cell phone use around the time of the killing, indicating he had conversations with people linked to the case within minutes of the shooting.
Both pieces of evidence are absent, it turns out, from the official case history. It’s an oversight that hamstrings the case from considering a fuller range of suspects than the low-level defendant who was originally arrested.
The combined new investigations may produce results that have eluded the police. The Alameda District Attorney’s Office is running its own inquiry. Mayor Ron Dellums may also call for an outside look at the Bailey case. It’s time that a full and independent investigation, one that doesn’t withhold crucial evidence, into the killing of one voice in Oakland who was untainted and unafraid.