MADELEINE BRAND, host:
We repeatedly asked Oakland's Mayor Ron Dellums and Congresswoman Barbara Lee for interviews. Both declined.
I was able to speak with Howard Jordan, an official with the Oakland Police Department. I asked him about the man who was arrested and reportedly confessed to killing journalist Chauncey Bailey. Nineteen-year-old Devaughnde Brussard was a handyman at Your Black Muslim Bakery.
Here is assistant police chief Howard Jordan.
Mr. HOWARD JORDAN (Assistant Police Chief, Oakland Police Department): This investigation is still ongoing. We are continuing to look at other people that may be involved. Mr. Brussard's case is being reviewed by the district attorney's office and he's got some court dates coming up where he has to enter a plea and so on and so forth.
BRAND: Now, you just heard from Christopher Hitchens and where he criticizes Mayor Ron Dellums, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, also the Oakland Police Department, for basically turning a blind eye. And I'm wondering what your response is to what he said just there.
Mr. JORDAN: Well, I believe it's inaccurate. We had several investigations into the bakery in the past, and the one most recently was when they vandalized the liquor stores. All the people that were involved in that, I think there were seven or eight of them, were charged and are pending prosecution here in Alameda County.
In addition to that, we were the investigating agency that investigated the senior Yusuf Bey on the child sex cases in the past. We've had other attempts to investigate allegations against members of the bakery; however we were unable to pursue because of either lack of evidence or lack of cooperation from some of our victims and witnesses in this case.
BRAND: Now, a newspaper there in Oakland, the East Bay Express, had a series of articles - investigative articles - about this bakery and found that there was a virtual crimewave unleashed by this bakery that did not get the kind of attention that it ought to have been. This is the allegation in the newspaper.
Mr. JORDAN: I could only speak to the ones that we're aware of. We had a confrontation with them, I'm not sure, it was probably in late '90s or so. I think we made some arrests and the DA refused to prosecute them any further than the time that they were in jail for. And I'm not sure why that is. We had other cases that we're investigating.
BRAND: And which cases are these?
Mr. JORDAN: That's the kidnapping and the torture case that occurred in May of this year.
BRAND: Kidnapping and torture of who?
Mr. JORDAN: Two women. I can't release their names.
BRAND: Allegedly by members of the Your Black Muslim Bakery.
Mr. JORDAN: Yes.
BRAND: The East Bay Express journalist who wrote this investigative series was then targeted by members of the Your Black Muslim Bakery. He was followed. He was harassed. He received death threats. He had to go underground for six months, he writes, because he was so afraid for his life. Was that ever investigated?
Mr. JORDAN: To my knowledge, he never reported that to the police. This is the first time I've heard of that.
BRAND: The first time?
Mr. JORDAN: Yes.
BRAND: Even though he wrote about it in the newspaper.
Mr. JORDAN: Yes. I don't read the East Bay Express.
BRAND: Chris Thompson has a column that was published a couple of weeks ago where he said that if the Oakland Police is successful in its current investigation at the Your Black Muslim Bakery, that they will be very successful in cutting a big tumor out of the city's heart. Those are his words. Basically saying that this bakery was responsible for a disproportionate share of crime in Oakland. Is that true?
Mr. JORDAN: Part of it. We have two unsolved murders right now that occurred this year that we think they're responsible for. But we haven't been able to prove that.
BRAND: How big a criminal enterprise, do you think, the Your Black Muslim Baker is or was?
Mr. JORDAN: It's hard to tell. The open cases that I talked about are the only cases that I'm aware of right now that they're responsible for in addition to some financial crimes that they were involved in, that we are actively investigating as well.
BRAND: And financial crimes - these are?
Mr. JORDAN: This is identity - where they use fictitious names to buy real estate property and have fictitious credit cards to obtain services and purchasing vehicles under different names and defaulting on loans.
BRAND: Looking back at the mid-90s, was there a feeling that this group is sort of hands-off, that perhaps things happen there but you really shouldn't pursue it?
Mr. JORDAN: No. There was never any attempts by other people outside the department to dissuade us from investigating this bakery or members of the bakery.
BRAND: Well, Howard Jordan, assistant chief for the Oakland Police, thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. JORDAN: Okay. You're welcome.