Police investigator in Bailey murder testifies about his handling of the case
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — The lead police investigator into the shooting death of journalist Chauncey Bailey explained publicly for the first time Thursday why he did not record what later came to be seen as a crucial, private meeting between two men being questioned in connection with the 2007 killing.
Testifying in Bailey’s murder trial, Oakland Police Sgt. Derwin Longmire said he had no way of secretly recording the six-minute meeting between the prime suspect in the killing, Devaunghdre Broussard, and Yusuf Bey IV, the leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery who Broussard considered his spiritual leader.
Broussard, Longmire said, “had asked for privacy. It didn’t seem reasonable to me to leave a recording device.”
The police substation where Broussard and Bey IV were being interrogated wasn’t equipped with built-in recording devices, Longmire testified, adding that if he had left a recorder in plain sight it would have been as if he were in room listening to the conversation.
After Bey IV emerged from the meeting, Broussard told investigators he acted alone when he shot Bailey as the Oakland Post editor walked to work on the morning of Aug. 2, 2007. Broussard now says Bey IV ordered the killing to stop Bailey from writing an article about the bakery’s financial trouble, and that Bey IV used the private meeting to pressure him to take the blame, saying the moment was a test from God.
That explanation was one of the few things Longmire talked about in his long-anticipated appearance in Bey IV and co-defendant Antoine Mackey’s triple murder case. Bey IV and Mackey have pleaded not guilty to murder charges in connection with Bailey’s death and the unrelated shooting deaths of two other men, Odell Roberson and Michael Wills, in summer 2007.
Longmire’s testimony was cut short following a 30-minute conference in Judge Thomas Reardon’s chambers after Bey IV’s lawyer, Gene Peretti, objected to a line of questioning from prosecutor Melissa Krum.
Krum asked Longmire about a conversation about the bakery he had in 2003 with then Police Chief Richard Word. Peretti claimed the question lacked relevance to the charges against Bey IV, and the judge upheld the objection after meeting with attorneys in his chambers.
Reardon did not explain in open court why he upheld the objection.
According to documents obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project, Longmire told Word in 2003 that the bakery was a criminal enterprise and urged that action be taken to shut it down. The documents describe Word declining to act on the advice and telling Longmire to work on other investigations.
After the private hearing with the judge, Krum quickly changed directions in her questioning and finished within 10 minutes. Peretti and Mackey’s lawyer, Gary Sirbu, crossed-examined Longmire for a few minutes and the court session ended more than an hour early because Krum had no other witnesses ready to testify, anticipating a longer session with Longmire.
Much of Longmire’s testimony focused on how he came to know Bey IV and his knowledge of the bakery. Longmire said he met Bey IV in November 2005 when Bey IV showed up at a crime scene where a man had died in police custody after choking on a bag of drugs he tried to swallow.
Bakery members had videotaped the encounter, and the recording was later seized during a raid on the bakery. On the recording, which Krum played it for the jury, Bey IV could be heard called police officers “white devils” as Longmire tried to calm him.
Longmire said he told Bey IV, whose older brother Antar had recently been murdered, that he ought to be home comforting his mother and running the bakery, not “confronting police about matters he knew very little.”
Longmire also said that the first lead that the bakery was linked to Bailey’s death came from Post publisher Paul Cobb, who he said called police shortly after the shooting and said that Bailey was working on a story about the long-standing black empowerment organization.
Under cross examination by Sirbu, Longmire also denied charges from Broussard, who said Longmire grabbed and roughly squeezed his leg while interrogating him and also denied his requests for a lawyer.
Neither Peretti nor Sirbu asked Longmire any questions about his handling of the case, which lead to a state justice department investigation in 2009 and a finding that Longmire “intentionally compromised” the investigation because he was friends with Bey IV. Longmire’s lawyers have vigorously denied those claims and successfully fought Oakland Police Department attempts to dismiss Longmire.
A state justice department official, John Porbanic, led the 2009 investigation. A police internal affairs investigation reached the same conclusion. Longmire’s lawyer, Michael Rains, got the department to back down after writing a blistering critique of the state investigation, calling it inept.
The justice department then issued a written statement saying that its findings were supported by facts and standing behind Porbanic. A justice department spokesman, Jim Finefrock, said in an email Thursday the department had no comment on whether that position has changed.
Longmire sued the Oakland Police Department last year in federal court, claiming that his rights were violated, in part because a gag order prohibited him from speaking publicly about the Bailey case. All but one of his claims were thrown out. Court records show the suit has been sent to a mediator for possible settlement.
The trial resumes Monday morning. Krum said Wednesday that she has about 40 witnesses left to testify.
Contact investigative reporter Thomas Peele at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.