Chauncey Bailey Project

Longmire: I was the best man to investigate Chauncey Bailey slaying

Sgt. Derwin Longmire
Sgt. Derwin Longmire

Sgt. Derwin Longmire

By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

Sgt. Derwin Longmire’s defense of his work on the Chauncey Bailey homicide investigation is perhaps best captured in one short sentence: “I was the best man for the case, and I knew it.”

That is what Longmire told state investigators who asked if his relationship with Yusuf Bey IV posed a conflict of interest for him in investigating Bailey’s 2007 killing, according to a document prepared by Longmire’s lawyer.

Longmire said he kept an open line of communication with Bey IV and others at the now-defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery because he thought it was good police work to know people in the community and treat them respectfully.

Bey IV talked to Longmire about the slaying — allegedly lying about his own involvement — and then persuaded one of his followers, the now-admitted assassin Devaughndre Broussard, to confess.

A grand jury indicted Bey IV in April on charges he ordered Bailey killed, allegedly because the journalist was working on a story for the Oakland Post about the bakery’s financial troubles.

Longmire told investigators that he first went to the bakery in 1991 for healthy food to supplement a bodybuilding regimen and became friends with Mustfa Bey, one of its managers, who considered himself a spiritual son of the organization’s patriarch, Yusuf Bey.

They remained friends, and Longmire said that led him to meet the elder Bey, who once took him to his private office on the bakery’s second floor to ask his advice about how to win a contract to sell food at Oakland A’s games.

Longmire said he first encountered Bey IV in November 2005, when he said he talked the bakery leader, then 19, out of protesting the death of a man in police custody. He denied becoming his mentor, which is how a lawyer for Bey IV has described the relationship. What Longmire said he was doing was treating Bey IV with respect.

“Where we have fallen so often is just dealing with people in a dignified way,” he said of the department’s interaction with the community.

He denied both any special friendship with Bey IV and shielding him from charges in the Bailey case. Bey IV was secretly recorded in jail saying “the reason they didn’t pin the murder on me was Longmire.”

Investigators for both the California Department of Justice and the police Internal Affairs Division found that Longmire compromised the Bailey investigation.

However, then-acting Police Chief Howard Jordan earlier this month opted to reinstate Longmire, who had been suspended with pay since April, rather than fire him.

Jordan did suspend Longmire without pay for five days for undisclosed violations in five other homicide cases unrelated to Bailey.

An officer with knowledge of that suspension said the decision stemmed from a review of Longmire’s work by homicide Lt. Brian Medeiros, who found “a flagrant lack of performance” on cases that were “poorly handled.”

A police spokesman said Tuesday that there is no timeline for Longmire’s return to work and that he could not comment further.

Excerpts of Longmire’s interview with state investigators are part of a carefully crafted memo his lawyer, Michael Rains, prepared in his defense. They represent only a fraction of the interview with state investigators.

Rains — who has said that Longmire is a department scapegoat and victim of rumor and innuendo — did not respond to a request for a copy of the full interview transcript or related documents. The state Justice Department refused to release its report on the Longmire investigation, arguing that it is exempt from disclosure under the Public Record Act.

In his memo, Rains insisted that the “department has hurled some of the most sinister, serious accusations imaginable at (a) highly experienced and ethical police officer.” He repeatedly criticized both the state investigators and Wendell France, a retired Baltimore police major who conducted the department’s internal affairs investigation. Rains called France’s work “shoddy and inept.” France could not be reached.

The memo and the excerpts of Longmire’s statement also offer several explanations of key events in the case.

When Bey IV phoned Longmire several times from jail, Rains wrote that Longmire did not list the calls in his case notes because Joyner had told him to keep “ancillary notes” about conversations with Bey IV and turn them over to him. No reason for keeping the notes separate from the rest of the case was given. Joyner was investigated for failure to properly supervise Longmire’s work, but he was not disciplined.

A former criminal lawyer and law school dean who has analyzed Longmire’s work for the Chauncey Bailey Project said the explanation makes no sense to him.

“Why are they keeping two sets of books? It doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Peter Keane, a Golden Gate University law professor and dean emeritus.

Longmire also offered an explanation for why he did not list in his case notes the existence of a secretly recorded video of Bey IV mocking Bailey’s killing and laughing about it. He said he had not seen it.

According to the memo, a deputy district attorney told Longmire about the recording shortly after it was made but that Longmire did not watch the video.

“The next time Longmire heard about the video was when he received a telephone call from Bey IV,” Rains wrote. That was in June 2008, 10 months later. Longmire told investigators that he then saw the video “on the news.”

The Chauncey Bailey Project had obtained and enhanced the video. On it, Bey IV bragged to two of his followers that he put the gun used to kill Bailey in his bedroom closet hours after the shooting, but gave it back to Broussard that night.

Jesse Grant, a former Oakland detective, set up the secret filming as part of an investigation of an unrelated kidnapping case against Bey IV.

Grant, now a Berkeley police officer, told investigators that when he saw Bey IV talking about Bailey, he gave the video to the homicide unit, according to Rains’ memo.

However, Rains wrote that Grant’s account “was entirely fictitious. Det. Grant lied.” He quoted Longmire and Joyner as saying that they never received a copy of the tape.

Grant could not be reached for comment. Senior law enforcement sources have described Grant as a highly credible officer.

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