Commentary: Oakland’s top badges need to explain themselves
By Tammerlin Drummond
Oakland Tribune columnist
COMMENTARY: Aug. 2, 2007: Journalist Chauncey Bailey is shot dead during morning rush hour while walking to his downtown Oakland office.
Aug. 3, 2007: Oakland police and SWAT officers from neighboring law enforcement agencies stage an early morning raid on Your Black Muslim Bakery as well as other neighboring properties owned by the group.
Afterward, police officials announce they have uncovered key evidence linking Your Black Muslim Bakery members to Bailey’s slaying 22 hours earlier, including the shotgun believed to be used in the killing.
During the raid, police arrest bakery dishwasher Devaughndre Broussard. He confesses to Bailey’s killing, is charged with the crime and later recants. Yusuf Bey IV, the bakery leader police suspect of ordering the journalist’s murder, also is arrested and charged in connection with two other felony cases.
Bailey’s family members, co-workers and friends long have lamented that the raid did not come a day sooner when it very possibly could have saved the editor’s life.
For the past 16 months, Oakland police officials have led us to believe it was just a question of unfortunate timing. Department brass stubbornly have insisted that although police had the necessary warrants in hand, police weren’t logistically ready to serve them until Aug. 3 — the day after Bailey’s death.
But now, The Chauncey Bailey Project — a coalition of news organizations that has done a far better job of investigating the journalist’s killing than the Police Department — has uncovered new information suggesting police officials have been less than forthright.
Chauncey Bailey Project team members Thomas Peele and Bob Butler reported Tuesday that police officials initially had made preparations to raid the bakery Aug. 1, but decided to move the date forward to Aug. 3 because two senior SWAT commanders, Deputy Chief David Kozicki and Capt. Ed Tracey, were on a backpacking trip. The commanders apparently wanted to be present for the raid.
According to Peele and Butler’s sources, even though the U-Haul trucks had been rented to serve as “Trojan horses” to allow the SWAT teams to surreptitiously approach the bakery, the department made the decision to delay the raid.
Lorelei Waqia, Bailey’s sister, was understandably distraught.
“They caused the death, really,” she said. “If they had moved on it, my brother would still be alive.”
If it were my brother, I’m sure that I would feel the same anger and frustration.
True, there is nothing to suggest the police had any inkling Your Black Muslim Bakery members were planning to kill Bailey.
What they did suspect, however, is that bakery members were becoming increasingly violent. And instead of merely killing their own, they recently had been implicated in the killings of two people not associated with the bakery. And they were suspected of kidnapping and torturing two women in East Oakland.
That’s why Oakland police officials decided on July 27 to raid the bakery headquarters Aug. 1, according to Chauncey Bailey Project sources. But then, at a July 30 command staff meeting, the raid was pushed to Aug. 3, ostensibly to accommodate the two vacationing SWAT members.
It was a decision that very well may have cost Bailey his life.
How likely would it have been for the hit on Bailey to be carried out if the bakery was raided Aug. 1 as originally planned? It’s unlikely that a few hours after being arrested, Broussard would have then gone out, and as suspected by police, killed Bailey.
I realize it’s always easy to play Monday morning quarterback. Of course the decision to delay the raid by a couple of days looks really, really bad now.
But why didn’t Chief Wayne Tucker just fess up from the beginning? How hard would it have been to say, ‘We wanted to wait so we would have all of our people in place’?
Why repeatedly insist there was no delay?
Rank-and-file officers are receiving harsh discipline after being accused of a lack of truthfulness. Apparently there are different standards for the police command structure.
Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente says this is just one more example of a lack of accountability within the department, going back at least five years.
Reporters Without Borders and members of the Bey family who belong to an anti-Bey IV faction are all calling for a federal investigation into Bailey’s killing.
Given the Police Department’s dismal performance in pursuing the case, that may well be the only hope for apprehending Bailey’s killers.
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. Her column runs Wednesdays in Metro and Sundays in Opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.