Commentary: Bailey case investigation an utter mess
COMMENTARY – By Tammerlin Drummond, Bay Area News Group
For all these months, Oakland police have had in their possession key pieces of evidence that could help prove that Chauncey Bailey’s killing was a conspiracy and not the work of a lone gunman.
What have they done with this important information? Nothing.
Left to its druthers, the OPD was all too happy to hang the killing on Devaughndre Broussard, the only suspect who has been charged.
Close the case out and move on. Though it’s obvious there’s no way the 20-year-old former Your Black Muslim Bakery handyman — a fellow of modest intelligence to put it kindly — could have pulled off the killing on his own.
After Broussard’s confession that he killed Bailey to stop him from printing negative stories about the bakery, Broussard couldn’t even explain to police how the weapon, a sawed off shotgun, worked. He has since recanted and says Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV told him to take the fall like a good soldier.
If the police — and the district attorney’s office for that matter — had been left to their own devices, the Bailey investigation would have continued to go exactly nowhere.
We would have probably never gotten to the bottom of who really shot Bailey, the first journalist killed in the United States in 30 years.
It has taken dogged reporters to do the job of the police. Chauncey Bailey Project reporters Thomas Peele, Bob Butler and Mary Fricker, obtained copies of evidence the police apparently saw fit to ignore. Then, the three, who are members of a media consortium that includes MediaNews, investigated where the police wouldn’t.
They discovered that Sgt. Derwin Longmire, the lead investigator in the Bailey case, who happens to be a personal friend of prime suspect Bey IV, has repeatedly ignored cell phone records, videos, and other evidence that appears to implicate Bey IV in the August 2007 killing of the journalist.
Anyone who has ever watched an episode of “Law and Order” knows that one of the first things police do when there is a killing is check the victim’s and suspect’s cell phone records. It’s police investigations 101.
But Longmire never made any attempt to track the numbers in the cell that was in Bey IV’s possession when he was arrested during a raid at the bakery the day after Bailey’s killing. If he did, the Bailey Project reporters found, he never put it in his notes. The written record is the only way for anyone else within the department to track the progress of an investigation. Anyone reading Longmire’s notes would have no idea that this evidence existed.
Which may have been the point.
Bailey Project reporters spent four months tracking the incoming and outgoing numbers. By using official records and online databases, they figured out who the numbers in the cell belonged to. They found out that Bey IV was on the phone with an acquaintance of Bailey, while Bey IV, Broussard and another Bey IV associate were outside Bailey’s apartment.
They also found that Longmire never mentioned anything in his notes about a car tracking device that police had installed on Bey IV’s Dodge in connection with a separate kidnapping and torture case, in which he has since been arrested.
Bey IV had initially told police that he hadn’t been to Bailey’s apartment. But the tracking device places his car outside Bailey’s apartment seven hours before the killing.
You add all of these pieces of evidence up and you begin to build a case against Bey IV.
The reporters also found out that Bey IV has called Longmire numerous times from Santa Rita Jail. Often by calling the mother of Bey IV’s three children who then puts Longmire on a three-way.
It smells, to say the least.
The police internal affairs division apparently thinks so too and is investigating the detective and whether his relationship with Bey IV has compromised the case. Though IA apparently had no interest in Longmire until Bailey Project reporters began asking questions earlier this year.
From the very beginning, it never made sense for Oakland Police officials to allow Longmire to lead the Bailey inquiry knowing that he and Bey IV were close friends — especially given that the bakery had been implicated within 11 hours of the killing. When challenged, police brass insisted that having a homicide detective investigating a friend was “unusual” but not “unethical.”
It was foolish not to reassign the case. And now, the Bailey investigation is a complete mess.
It’s pretty funny that now that the Bailey Project has pointed out how inept, and possibly corrupt, the OPD investigation has been, everyone suddenly wants to jump on the bandwagon.
District Attorney Tom Orloff has assigned two investigators to determine whether Bailey was a victim of a murder conspiracy. Mayor Ron Dellums has called for State Attorney Jerry Brown to investigate.
Where were they nine months ago?
Why did it take a group of reporters to analyze evidence that the OPD should have been working all along.
And why, pray tell, hasn’t Longmire been suspended, as is customary, pending the outcome of the internal affairs investigation?
Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.