Commentary: Recognition of Bailey case bungling, finally
FINALLY, THERE IS some official recognition that the Oakland Police Department has bungled the yearlong investigation of the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey.
District Attorney Tom Orloff, apparently realizing that the police department cannot be trusted, has assigned his own investigators to try to solve the case.
In addition, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, prompted by the latest press reports, has asked state Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate the investigators. We hope Brown can figure out how and why police have so badly botched the murder probe and whether the case’s lead detective has been protecting a key suspect.
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. It was the most prominent slaying of an American journalist in more than three decades. 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.
A report last summer by the Chauncey Bailey Project — a reporting consortium of news organizations including MediaNews — revealed 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.
This week, in more revelations from the reporting consortium, we learn that Longmire ignored other evidence linking Bey to the killing and interfered in two unrelated felony cases related to Bey. Specifically, a tracking device indicated Bey’s car was outside Bailey’s apartment seven hours before the killing. Moreover, cell records show that Bey was on the phone with an acquaintance of Bailey while he and two others were at the journalist’s residence. And, the records show a series of phone calls within minutes of the killing.
Legal experts who reviewed Longmire’s case notes, recordings of interviews with Broussard and Bey, a report on the tracking device and other documents for the Bailey Project said the investigation is severely compromised. “I felt from reading all of this, a sense of a bias, a bias on the part of Sgt. Longmire in favor of … those involved with the bakery,” said former Santa Clara County Judge LaDoris Cordell. “I didn’t feel a sense (of) objectivity that I think has to be there for a competent investigation.”
Clearly, the police department — Longmire in particular — has a lot of explaining to do. As the mayor said, openness and transparency are critical. Moreover, an “expeditious, thoughtful, professional” review of the police department investigation is essential if its leaders hope to regain the confidence of the public. We urge Attorney General Brown to move forward with his probe as quickly and carefully as possible. Until it’s complete, Longmire should be reassigned.
Meanwhile, there’s still a murder to be solved. For that, we are placing our trust in District Attorney Orloff. It’s sad that it’s come to this, but we hold out little hope that Longmire and the rest of the police department can — or will — connect the dots.