Chauncey Bailey Project

Popoff, Bey IV’s ‘No. 1 soldier,’ expressed his loyalty

Gary Popoff
Gary Popoff

Gary Popoff

By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

Gary Popoff took the phone call from the Santa Rita Jail. It was his spiritual mentor, Yusuf Bey IV.

“I am your No. 1 soldier,” Popoff professed in the January 2009 call. “There is nothing I won’t do for you.”

“You are an innocent man, and Allah is about to intervene on your behalf.”

Now, Bey IV, the former leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, and Popoff, an ex-con and Bey IV’s former bodyguard, are under investigation, accused of plotting to kill witnesses in Bey IV’s upcoming triple murder trial.

According to recordings obtained by Bay Area News Group, Bey IV told Popoff that he had things for him to do “that you never thought you’d be doing. We are in unusual circumstances.”

A grand jury indicted Bey IV in April 2009 for ordering the slayings of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men in the summer of 2007. The trial of Bey IV and co-defendant Antoine Mackey is scheduled to begin in August, but could be delayed. The next hearing is set for May 17.

Popoff, 42, who has a long criminal history, said he would do something that could result in a return to prison only “if it is the will of Allah.”

Bey IV, 24, told Popoff that Allah could communicate only through him.

“The will of Allah be transferred to you through me,” Bey IV said. “If you don’t hear it from me, that means the work of Allah is not ready yet. You have to trust me. I have a lot of enemies out there.”

Besides being a once high-profile Oakland business, the bakery had served as a black empowerment organization that for decades attracted young men with troubled backgrounds, such as Popoff.

Three months after that conversation, Popoff was back in prison on a parole violation. He was released in January and renewed his association with Bey IV. Popoff has now been jailed after a hearing officer with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ruled last week that Popoff’s role in the assassination planning — which investigators with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office quickly foiled in March — was a violation of his parole.

Popoff has yet to be charged in the case. An investigation is ongoing.

Also under investigation is Bey IV’s former lawyer, Lorna Patton Brown, who withdrew from the murder case two weeks ago. According to a corrections department summary of Popoff’s hearing, Bey IV wrote notes in the margins of legal papers that Brown took from jail and passed on to a member of the Bey family, who gave them to Popoff.

At the time of the January 2009 phone calls with Popoff, Bey IV was jailed in a kidnapping and torture case unrelated to the murder charges. But at that time, he and Popoff discussed one of the witnesses that Bey IV is believed to have ordered killed.

“Why would (the witness) lie?” Popoff said, referring to a statement the person gave to police that was the subject of news stories. Bey IV replied that the witness had a personal grudge against him.

Other legal documents describe Popoff as a longtime member of the bakery, working there in between prison terms. In conversations with Bey IV, he referred to bakery founder Yusuf Bey as “Pops” numerous times and bragged that he had gotten the letters YBMB — for Your Black Muslim Bakery — tattooed on his arm.

Popoff repeatedly showed deference to Bey IV as his spiritual leader despite being nearly two decades older, calling him ‘sir,’ and at one point expressing love for him. Popoff repeatedly said that Bey IV was the only person in his life who had helped him, and his loyalty was unwavering. Bey IV often steered their conversations back to what Popoff could do for him.

Bey IV instructed Popoff to also take orders from his sister, Jannah Bey, and to deal with other, unnamed people, on his behalf, telling him to “pat everybody down make sure they ain’t wearing no wires. We have enemies. I need you on your toes.”

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