Commentary: Chauncey Bailey murder could have been avoided
COMMENTARY: Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today after learning that a delay in an Oakland police raid on Your Black Muslim Bakery could have cost Chauncey Bailey his life.
The late Oakland Post editor was gunned down by a masked man on his way to work on August 2, 2007. The day after, the police department raided the facility of Your Black Muslim Bakery, suspecting some of its employees were involved in the killing.
One of them, Devaughndre Broussard, confessed to the murder but later recanted. Yusuf Bey IV, the bakery’s leader, is suspected of being involved.
Reporters Without Borders has welcomed Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums call on December 16 for an expansion of the state investigation to include the delay in the raid and more transparency.
The press freedom organization also urged the Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, as soon as he is confirmed, to make sure a federal investigation is launched, noting that as a former Oakland mayor, State Attorney Jerry Brown could also be faced with conflicts of interest while investigating a police department he used to be in charge of.
The Chauncey Bailey Project, a cooperative effort between San Francisco Bay area journalists investigating the circumstance around Bailey’s death, reported on December 15 that the raid had been delayed 48 hours, from the planned date of Aug. 1, 2007, to Aug. 3, 2007, to accommodate the vacation schedules of two SWAT commanders. Bailey was killed on August 2, 2007.
According to the Chauncey Bailey Project, “that decision came over the objection of the homicide detectives who suspected bakery members in two July 2007 gun slayings and feared a killing spree had begun. The detectives wanted immediate action to prevent additional bloodshed, although they had no indication Bailey had been targeted. If not for the delay, Bailey might be alive.”
Police Chief Wayne Tucker, who first denied the raid had been delayed, later admitted he was the one who made the decision to delay it.
“The more we look into the Oakland police’s handling of the case, the more failures and misconducts emerge. We were already very concerned by evidence uncovered last summer suggesting that local police officials may be protecting those responsible for Mr. Bailey’s death. The new revelations regarding the raid – how Chauncey Bailey’s life would have been spared if it hadn’t been delayed – come as the tip on the iceberg.” stated Reporters Without Borders.
“It shows the incompetence of the Oakland Police Chief and casts serious doubts about the motives and integrity of Tucker and some of his men, including lead detectives Longmire and Joyner III. The investigation now seems so marred by local conflicts of interests and corruption that the best option would be to transfer the case to federal investigators, in order to ensure a thorough and independent investigation. It won’t bring Chauncey back but at least it will honor his memory and send a strong signal to those who think they can kill a journalist and cover up the truth in total impunity”.
“Everything should be on the table,” Dellums said to the Chauncey Bailey Project when asked about Tucker’s contradictory statements. “This is a public matter that has raised confidence issues in the public sector. Then at the end of the day, the result of that ultimately needs to become public.”
Dellums said a state Justice Department investigation he requested in October to parallel the department’s own probe should include looking at the timing of the raid and what Tucker and other police commanders have said about it. This investigation is parallel to the current internal police investigation of the case’s lead detective, Derwin Longmire.
Mayor Dellums has also asked retired Superior Court Judge Henry Ramsey to oversee the probe in a role Dellums described as “a special master.”
The Chauncey Bailey Project had already released a series of articles earlier this year that highlighted several irregularities in Longmire’s handling of the case.
On December 11th authorities announced that the head of the Oakland police homicide detail, Lt. Ersie Joyner III, a 17-year veteran who ran the department’s controversial investigation into the Chauncey Bailey slaying, had been transferred to patrol duties. Joyner said his transfer “wasn’t due to anything regarding the investigation.” and was told that he was sent to patrol because he is in line to be promoted to captain.
Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Bailey Project’s executive editor told Reporters Without Borders December 17 that ” Mayor Dellums’ call for a wider investigation is good news. We believe that there’s still much to explain around Bailey’s murder. Our work has raised many questions that have yet to be answered.”
Bailey had been working on a story about the financial troubles of Your Black Muslim Bakery, a North Oakland business and community organization. The Alameda County district attorney’s office has already begun an independent investigation into whether there was a conspiracy to murder Bailey.