Chauncey Bailey Project

Commentary: Police say Bailey’s killers are in custody


The son of the late Oakland Black Muslim leader Yusuf Bey was among seven people arrested Friday during a series of predawn law-enforcement raids in connection with three Oakland homicides, including the daylight shooting death of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Yusuf Bey IV and six other people were taken into custody and several weapons were seized during the multi-agency raids that began at 5 a.m. Police, SWAT teams and bomb units from throughout Alameda County searched Your Black Muslim Bakery at 5832 San Pablo Ave. and three associated locations nearby on 59th and Aileen streets in North Oakland.

“Bey hasn’t been formally charged with a crime. But police said they had arrested the people responsible for killing Bailey, 57, at 14th and Alice streets on Thursday as well as two other people four days apart in July,” the Web site story, by Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Christopher Heredia, Jaxon Van Derbeken and Henry K. Lee, said.

“‘The search warrant yielded several weapons and other evidence of value including evidence linking the murder of Chauncey Bailey to members of the Your Black Muslim Bakery,’ said Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan, who said the raids were part of a yearlong investigation into a variety of violent crimes.

“Homicide detective Lt. Ersie Joyner said ‘scientific evidence’ had linked the firearms to Bailey’s killing.

“Joseph Debro, an Oakland businessman who writes a column for the Post, said Bailey had recently asked him for information about Your Black Muslim Bakery’s financial troubles for a story Bailey was writing.

“‘To him it was just another story,’ Debro said. ‘He wasn’t apprehensive or anxious about it at all. He said he was working on a bunch of stories and this was one.'”

KCBS-AM posted the audio of a story by Bob Melrose about Bailey’s investigation-in-progress.

Bailey was shot to death Thursday morning near the Alameda County courthouse in what police called an assassination-style killing. He was editor-in-chief of the Post Newspapers, which includes black papers in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Francisco and Southern Alameda County, Calif. Bailey was a longtime reporter for the Oakland Tribune and assumed the Post editorship in June.

Bailey’s age was given as 57 years old in some news reports but as 58 by the Detroit News, where he once worked, and by the Bay Area Black Journalists Association. The News stood by its personnel records.

The Tribune said, “Your Black Muslim Bakery and its affiliated businesses, which fill several storefronts along both sides of San Pablo Avenue near the Emeryville and Berkeley borders, have long been alternately praised and vilified. Police said the Nation of Islam, an umbrella organization for Muslims nationwide, is not affiliated with the bakery.”

“We do not have any reason to believe that the Nation of Islam is involved in any of this activity,” Assistant Chief Jordan was quoted as saying.

The group was the subject of a 2002 story in the East Bay Express.

The Tribune reported that “authorities also uncovered conditions so unsanitary that the Alameda County Health Department has closed down the popular bakery and cafe.

“Police broke down doors and used stun grenades to disorient people to gain entry. No one was hurt in the raids, which began at 5 a.m.”

The Tribune story by Harry Harris, Kristin Bender and Kelly Rayburn added, “Bailey also served as the news director at the East Bay’s black-oriented KSBT SoulBeat Television.

“And some say Bailey had a tumultuous relationship with members of the Black Muslim group.

“A longtime friend of Bailey’s who did not want to be named said the journalist got threats ‘all the time’ from the Black Muslim Bakery and its supporters when Bailey hosted a segment on the Soul Beat television show. ‘This was like 10 years ago,’ the friend said.

“Many of the threats came during call-in time on Bailey’s show, and many were taped on the program.

“The man later came on Bailey’s Soul Beat segment, the friend said, and the pair seemed to have a better relationship after that. Bailey wasn’t the only journalist to run afoul with the group. Stephen Buel, the editor of the East Bay Express, said the newspaper had a brick through the window in late 2002 following a series chronicling the dark side of the group.

“A reporter at the newspaper received threats following a story about the death of Bey in 2003. ‘We took them seriously and ultimately (the reporter) worked outside the office,’ Buel said. Bailey, who was released from the Tribune in 2005 because of conflict of interest issues, began covering the group again shortly after taking over as editor of the Oakland Post this summer. A memorial for Bailey, with flowers, notes and mementos had been erected at the spot where he was gunned down.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Thursday that the last targeted assassination of a journalist in the United States occurred in 1993 when Dona St. Plite, a Miami radio reporter of Haitian descent, was gunned down at a benefit. The period from 1976 to 1993 saw a total of 12 journalist killings. “A CPJ report issued that year, ‘Silenced: The Unsolved Murders of Immigrant Journalists in the United States,’ found that in all but one case, the victims were immigrant journalists working in languages other than English. Most received little or no national media attention.

“In 2001, freelance photographer William Biggart was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, died of inhalation anthrax in Boca Raton, Fla.”

The Oakland Tribune spoke to James Vesely, now the Seattle Times’ editorial page editor, who was among those who hired Bailey in Detroit, where Bailey was a staff writer and columnist at the Detroit News from 1979 to 1992, according to a News story by Oralandar Brand-Williams.

“Chauncey had this great, infectious personality,” Vesely recalled in the Tribune story by Josh Richman and Douglas Fischer. “He was also high-maintenance, but he arrived at Detroit just when there was a time that the racial presence of some reporters was important to the paper and to the city, and I think he carried that off pretty well.”

Vesely said Bailey impressed him as a young journalist at the vanguard of a generation of black men who remembered both Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, “part of a pioneer corps of reporters” asserting an African American presence at major metropolitan daily newspapers. “He fit that to a ‘T’ — he was someone who immediately knew the community, knew the town.

“I remember him once going across the desk at another black reporter. He was a dynamite guy, and sometimes the dynamite went off. He was a very strong personality, very assured of himself.”

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times quoted Bailey’s boss, Post Publisher Paul Cobb:

“He was the James Brown of the media. He was the hardest-working man in journalism.”

McKinley wrote on Saturday:

“Asked whether there were any regrets about not moving faster to arrest the suspects before Mr. Bailey was killed, Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said that the Oakland Police Department’s resources were ‘very thin’ and that the long-term investigation involved the cooperation of neighboring departments.

“‘Today was the best day we had, that we could have done this with the coordination of our allied agencies,’ Mr. Jordan said. ‘We weren’t just kind of waiting around.’

‘Mr. Jordan said it was ‘very disheartening’ to hear about Mr. Bailey’s killing, ‘and it was particularly disheartening to know it was connected to our investigation.'”

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