Chauncey Bailey Project

Former bakery leader accused of saying ‘white people are devils’ after killing

Michael J. Wills Jr.
Michael J. Wills Jr.

Michael J. Wills Jr.

By Josh Richman and Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

The July 2007 slaying of Michael Wills, in which two members of Your Black Muslim Bakery have been charged, was tinged with racial overtones, yet those men aren’t charged with a hate crime.

Friends and relatives of Wills, who was white, are concerned that prosecutors haven’t done all they can against defendants Yusuf Bey IV — the last leader of the now-defunct bakery — and Antoine Mackey, one of Bey’s followers charged with pulling an assault rifle’s trigger to end Wills’ life.

But experts say hate-crime cases are particularly difficult to prove and, in this case, would not bring added potential penalties beyond what the defendants already face.

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Audio:  Bey IV indicted
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Devaughndre Broussard, another Bey IV follower who has admitted to killing journalist Chauncey Bailey, told a prosecutor in March that Bey IV and Mackey bragged they killed Wills because of his race. The two saw him walking in North Oakland as they were discussing a string of racially motivated murders in the 1970s known as the Zebra killings.

 “They was laughing about and joking about,” Broussard said of Bey IV and Mackey.

Mackey “said he seen the white dude walking down the path … then he shot him,” Broussard added.

Bey IV later said, “‘We got a devil. White people are devils,'” according to Broussard’s statement.

Then Broussard said Bey IV talked about “a devil mentality. A black man can be a devil if he’s against his people.”

Bey IV and his late father, bakery founder Yusuf Bey, have often, while preaching, referred to white people as “devils.” And in telephone calls recorded from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project, Bey IV often made similar statements, referring to “white and Jew devils” and “media devils” whom he claims are trying to destroy him.

Referring to whites as “devils” was among the early teachings of Nation of Islam founders W.D. Fard and Elijah Muhammad. Although the elder Bey broke away from the organization to run what was in effect his own Black Muslim sect, he remained largely a follower of Elijah Muhammad.

Patrick Wills, the victim’s younger brother, said his brother’s family and friends “pretty much all feel the same. Everybody knows the only reason (Michael Wills) was shot was because he was white. So I don’t see any reason why that (hate crime enhancement) should not be part of the charges. For it to not to be there is horrible.”

Although Patrick Wills said he still believed justice would be served with murder convictions without hate crime enhancements, especially if those enhancements would complicate the case.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Lamiero, the case’s prosecutor, declined to comment, citing a gag order imposed by Superior Court Judge Allen Hymer. But experts say it’s less about what the victim deserves and more about trial strategy.

“Prosecutors tend to be very hesitant to charge hate crime cases … because they’re really, really hard to prove: You have to prove the offender’s motive beyond a reasonable doubt,” explained Associate Professor Phyllis Gerstenfeld, a hate-crime expert who chairs the criminal justice program at Cal State, Stanislaus. “Hate crimes are the only criminal acts that require you to prove motive beyond a reasonable doubt … and we can’t read people’s minds.”

California law requires that someone convicted of first-degree murder that is a also hate crime be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The law also says one of the “special circumstances” that make murder defendants eligible for capital punishment is if the “victim was intentionally killed because of his or her race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin.”

Mackey and Bey IV both are charged with a different special circumstance — that of having committed multiple murders. Prosecutors have not yet said whether they’ll seek the death penalty.

If it won’t add any potential penalties beyond what already is charged, there’s little reason to charge a hate crime in a case like this, said Brian Levin, a Cal State San Bernardino criminal justice professor and a civil-rights attorney who used to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center — among the nation’s foremost hate-group watchdogs.

Charging a hate-crime special circumstance in addition to the multiple-murder special circumstance could make the case far more complex, Levin said.

“When you get to the penalty phase, the defense can throw in just about any mitigating factor that’s relevant,” Levin said. “Unlike the prosecution, the defense can really throw in the kitchen sink virtually.

“Why go through having to interject something that now has to be proven to a particular standard?” Levin asked rhetorically. “It can be highly appropriate for (prosecutors) tactically to avoid overburdening the jury with additional items. Sometimes the cleanest, simplest case is the best.”

LeRue Grim, Broussard’s attorney, said he believes Wills’ slaying was a hate crime.

“The only reasonable interpretation of them referring to (Wills) as a devil is that it represents a feeling of hatred toward him as a white devil. It is a phrase that demonizes a person. To kill someone because of demonization seems as if it is a crime of hate.” Still, he conceded, Broussard’s statement about Bey IV and Mackey’s use of the word devil “is a little thin” to win a hate-crime conviction.

The California Department of Justice reports that although 1,426 hate crime events were reported statewide in 2007, only 443 hate crime cases were referred to prosecutors. Of those, charges were filed in 387 cases — 330 as hate crimes and 57 as crimes not motivated by bias. And of the 241 cases completed in time to be available for the annual report, 110 were hate crime convictions, 103 were other convictions and 28 were not convicted at all.

Independent journalist Bob Butler contributed to this report. Reach Bay Area News Group reporters Josh Richman at jrichman@bayareanewsgroup.com and Thomas Peele at tpeele@bayareanewsgroup.com; reach Bob Butler at bobbutler7@comcast.net.

 

6 responses to “Former bakery leader accused of saying ‘white people are devils’ after killing”

  1. Erich Hayner says:

    We should all be deeply offended by the Black Muslim Bakery, it’s ilk, and it’s followers. The fact is, they are overt and dangerous racists, no different from the current neo-nazis and klu klux klanners. The fact is that this group of people have espoused racist beliefs openly for decades and now have allegedly murdered a man in cold blood right here in Oakland for no other reason than to “kill a white devil”.
    Why the Black community could turn a blind eye and openly tolerate this disgusting example of humanity is as puzzling to me as to why so-called moral White people tolerated lynchings and the goings on of the KKK and their ilk in their communities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Although you may argue that the BMB is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the wrongs of the past, I ask you this; Why is it that the concept of an anonymously hung rope noose can spark protests, marches, international media attention, and documentaries? Why compared to this, when an innocent man walking down San Pablo Ave. was killed by some thugs standing on the roof of a building with an assault rifle, merely to see how it felt to murder a “White devil”, Why doesn’t anybody talk about this? Why is there no comment? No national debate or sensation here. Why?
    Why Black people aren’t saying much is a mystery. But White people now, that’s a different matter. Remember, these are my opinions and they are meant to explain the inaction of the reasonable non-racist White community towards this slaying.
    All I can tell you about race is what I believe as a White man, and what I believe is that White people are foolishly, blindly, and even irrationally fearful of appearing racist. Why? There are lots of loaded reasons: We believe that only throwbacks and simpletons are racists, Archie Bunker types; We’d hate to look stupid or ignorant or behind the times. We’re guilty; our ancestors were evil to the Black people and Black people are still suffering so terribly, so we shouldn’t offend them. Also, we’re empathetic, we understand what being Black is all about, because we’re hip, and understand the culture of Blackness, like we’re insiders.
    Ok, you can righteously and successfully argue with me about these things, but right, wrong, or whatever, to me it’s about how we White people interact or fail to interact with Black people in particular. (As an aside, I believe White people generally fall flat on their faces on all of the above.)
    We will harbor some racist feelings and will so until we are allowed to recognize and question them openly. I think the reason that this situation occurred, that the community at large has not responded, and that reactions to situations such as the Oscar Grant death, all stem from the fact that our society limits our discussion of race to no other light than the “enlightened” one.
    I am ashamed not only of the fact that White people did not respond to the unacceptable and long held beliefs broadcast openly by Bakery with constant protest, and I am outraged at the local Black community for it’s hypocrisy of tolerating when it is their community of all others, who know best, of the harm of blind hatred. Most of all, I’m ashamed that we feel that there is no common ground here to discuss the blatant racism that abounds in this city.
    Let’s all stand together and show the Bey family and their followers that until they change their path they have no place in any community much less Oakland, California.

  2. Bugs says:

    I agree with a lot of what was said here. A classic example of what was said in this post was my response to it. I started typing and stopped for a second to make sure that I wasn’t coming across as a racist……how sad is that. I actually ended up changing things a little bit just to be sure. The funny thing is, I’m not a racist, by any means. To quote an old friend – “I’m not a racist. I hate everybody equally.” I don’t harbor ill feelings toward any specific race, creed, religious belief, sexual orientation, etc. Everyone has a right to live their life to the fullest. I understand that doing this is not possible for many people in our communities for many different reasons…racism being a major one. But that doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye when a racist hate crime is committed – be it against a White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, or any other race. The Killing of Michael Wills was a hate crime, fueled by YBMB beliefs of White people.

    One of the truly sad things is the fact that Michael helped his community. He assisted people that were down on their luck, gave food to people that couldn’t provide for themselves. He built bicycles for people who couldn’t afford transportation. I mean, this was not a person who lived in Oakland and hated any one that wasn’t White. He was not racist in any way, shape, or form. To have him gunned down while walking next to an elementary school right next to his house is…..I don’t even know the words to use. But a crime like this just shows the ignorance related to racism. If YBMB was so set on helping the community as they have always claimed they were, they would have realized that they were killing a man who was doing what they only pretended to do.
    The past is the past, and I don’t want to take away from what has been done to Black people over the centuries and what they have had to endure and continue to endure. Every kid in school hears about the racism that ran rampant back then (and in some places, still does), and we’ve all heard what was done and how Blacks were treated. Unless you’ve lived that life, words and stories could never come close to describing the feelings these people had walking down the street or doing anything during that time. I mean, I could never come close to imaging what these people went through; which makes the silence regarding this so much more poignant.

    Once again, the race card is played in the response from folks in and outside the Oakland community. I’m sure there are folks out there that would like to have their message about this heard – good, bad, or indifferent. But most people are afraid of being taken as something they are not, and in some cases showing their true colors. As a White man, and as a friend to Michael, I would like to see something done regarding the nature of the crime. I’d like to be part of a protest, or something to show that hate crimes against any race are inexcusable. But……and here’s the kicker and the last posters point – I’m a little afraid to. First, I don’t want to put myself out there for YBMB to see, and secondly I don’t want to upset anyone in the Black community and make it seem like I’m holding this because it was a black man that did the killing. I don’t care if the person who shot Michael in cold blood was Asian, Hispanic, Korean, whatever. The point is, Michael was killed because of his color, plain and simple and that is inexcusable from any race.
    It’s a sick and twisted double standard and it’s something that I don’t think will ever go away. This has already become a little long winded, but I wanted to tell a quick story, which relates to the topic of racism.
    I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a gay friend. We were talking about the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco one day and I told him that I was going to put together a Straight Pride parade and host it in the city as well. He was a little offended when I told him this. I asked him if he hated straight people, to which he responded “No.” I then asked him if he thought I hated Gay people, and he said “No.” I gave him the very simple argument of this – If Gay people can have a peaceful parade to celebrate their sexual orientation and it isn’t condoning or harmful to any other sexual orientation, then why can’t I do the same thing for my orientation? Well, it’s because the straight people of the world have held down the gay people of the world for so long that it would be taken as a biased, bigoted, racist event, even if that wasn’t the intention. It would be questioned and people would wonder why they were having this parade, they must hate gays. But that isn’t it. If you can celebrate, why can’t I?

    It comes back to the fear of it all. Straight people would rather not deal with being seen as a possible bigot towards gays by holding a parade, and White people would rather not be seen as possible racists by Black people for holding a demonstration or protest regarding this killing. It’s a double edged sword that will be with this world until it ceases to exist and that is truly a sad, sad thing.

  3. Why should you bend over backward to prove that you are not racist? Unless your actions say otherwise, the fact that you are white should not allow others to assume you are racist. When you look at a black, do you automatically assume that person steals watermelons? This wierdness whites have about not offending blacks is really absurd to me, & it is certainly not a two-way street.

  4. Brothers, Sisters,
    I live in Chicago, have read this story with much interest, and must come to the side of the defendant. It seems to me that the defendant is the target group and the victim is the non-target group meaning that the non-target group (whites) will always be viewed as the devil because whites are privileged.
    White people are born racists, they cannot help it they have privileges that non-whites will never have or achieve in an entire lifetime. White people are born with certain rights that a black man will never enjoy.
    If you care too lynch this black man by throwing your white privilege around his neck and hanging him from a tree, no non-white without privilege could stop you.
    Please consider that the defendant felt fear and rage over the power white people wielded over his life being stomped on at every turn by a system that is inherently racist run by a racist, insensitive government that slaps all non-whites with an open hand.
    Know that this man had basic needs that we all have in common with each other air, water, light, beliefs, community that he felt the only way he could achieve those needs was using the only privilege he had at his disposal, violence.
    We humans are all violent and we have this in common over race, creed, and color. We cannot seemingly exist without violence in our lives because we have been taught since childhood that the only way to meet our basic needs is to strike our assumed enemies with the back of our hand rather than the soft brush of a feather.
    It is certain that violence breeds more violence therefore, we must come together as a single power, wash away our childhood teachings, and bring forth nonviolent communication. We must bless one another and bathe our brothers and sisters in fragrant oils soothing an age-old stench that is hardening our resolve for peace in our communities.
    True peace comes from the teacher not the condemner for we shall folly if our resolve fails to bring solace. See the accused and the victim as casualties of stupidest and let us come together humility in our pockets and feathers in place of our swords.
    Blessings
    White Grizzly

  5. Kareem says:

    white grizzly you aint speakin nothin but bullshit just erase that shit off the site

  6. Aunt Jo says:

    Well, I notice all these posts were left a long time ago. Have you forgotten? I haven’t, you see Michael J. Wills Jr. was my Nephew. He was shot down like a wild animal. All because he was white. If that isn’t a Hate Crime, what is it? It will complicate things, it’s hard to prove, what the hell is going on in this world? My Families lives will never be the same. Every Holiday, every Mother’s Day, every March 1st I sit by and watch my Sister suffer. Yes, I said suffer. She has not and never will be the same. This one action has ruined many peoples lives. All who knew Mike, knew what a wonderful human being he was. Always helping his community, those who were less fortunate, feeding them, building bikes for them. All because he was HUMAN! Are the men responsible for this suffering? Hell No! They are getting 3 meals a day, they have a bed to sleep in, they have a roof over their heads, and at the expense of the tax payers. That really stinks. Lets not play the race card here. Look at all the Native American people who were slaughtered and had their land stolen from them. Look at the thousands of people who died in Navou IL. because of their religion. When is the racisim gonna end? This is the 20th century. Are you gonna change? It all starts with one person. As I send my Sister off to CA. again to sit through the murder trial of her first born son, it angers me. I have lost a Sister and she has lost a Son. Our lives will never be the same. Lets not ever forget who Michael was and what he stood for. He loved all people and all people loved him. I miss him MUCH!!!! As we all do. I will always love him, until I see you on the other side. I love you Mike.

    Love forever,
    Aunt Jo

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