TONY COX, host:
Last year, journalist Chauncey Bailey was shot and killed on the street while reporting in Oakland, California. Bailey was the editor of the Oakland Post and the first journalist to be murdered on American soil since 1993. He was killed while investigating the financial problems of a controversial organization in Oakland called Your Black Muslim Bakery. In the last year, there's been a confession to the murder, but it has not satisfied a group of journalists who continue to work on the case. The group is called the Chauncey Bailey Project, and one of its members is reporter Bob Butler, who joins us now. Hello, Bob.
Mr. BOB BUTLER (Freelance Journalist; Member, The Chauncey Bailey Project): Hey, Tony.
COX: Listen, why is this case so significant to you?
Mr. BUTLER: It's significant because you have a journalist who's killed in the line of duty doing some investigative work into a story he wanted to write. And as far as we understand, the people that he was investigating put out a hit on him, and he was killed. I mean, that's a very chilling reminder that we do - sometimes do dangerous work. And the project's main mission is to tell those people, if indeed they are the ones responsible, that you cannot kill the message by killing the messenger.
COX: There has been a confession, hasn't there? And yet you remain unsatisfied. Why is that?
Mr. BUTLER: Well, the person who confessed was a very low-level member of the Your Black Muslim Bakery. He was a handyman. He originally told police he did not do the crime, and then after he was led to - he was allowed to meet privately with the bakery CEO, a 22-year-old named Yusuf Bey IV, this guy basically convinced him to confess. Now, whether or not he did the crime or not, we don't know. What we do know is, is that he did not do this by himself, as he has told police.
COX: Now, what would you say is the latest in the ongoing investigation? Or is the investigation ongoing, since the police had someone who confessed, although your organization doesn't necessarily buy it?
Mr. BUTLER: Well, whether - when I first started investigating this, I really felt that it was 80 to 20 against Devaughndre Broussard being the trigger man on this. I've since, you know, tempered that to be 50/50, but still the question is, did he do this by himself? The police, the day that they raided the bakery, on August 3rd, the day after Chauncey was killed, say we don't believe he acted alone, because there was obviously somebody driving the van that he got in to get away.
We don't believe he acted alone, either. And one thing we learned about the bakery is that nothing happened there unless it was authorized by the leadership that were - in this case, Yusuf Bey IV. We know that a few days after Chauncey was killed, and a few days after the raid, he was caught on videotape saying that he had had the gun used to kill Chauncey in his closet. We know he described in detail and mimicked what happened to Chauncey when he was shot. So this, to us, tells us this guy had more involvement than has been proven so far by the police.
The police investigation - the person who is the lead investigator in the case, in this homicide case, was also known as a mentor to Yusuf Bey IV, and during questioning, he allowed him to get away with some obvious lies that we know are not true. During the questioning of Broussard, he also did not challenge obvious misstatements that Broussard made. So we have a question as to why this guy was allowed to be in charge of the investigation when he had ties to the bakery previously.
COX: Setting aside the murder itself for just a moment, in terms of the work that Chauncey was doing with regard to the bakery itself, has that information been uncovered, what he was looking for?
Mr. BUTLER: Yeah. He was doing a story about the internal struggle of the bakery. You know, it's a long, involved story, but Yusuf Bey the senior died in 2003. He left the bakery in the hands of his successor, Waajid Aljawwaad Bey, not a biological son, an adopted, spiritual son. This may have angered some of the people inside the bakery who were biological sons, like Yusuf Bey IV, like his older brother Antar.
About four or five months after Yusuf Bey died and left Waajid in the charge, Waajid disappears. Now, we've never - we've known, but could not report before - we can report now - is that a few days after Waajid disappeared, the police showed up to talk to some of the bakery associates, the bakery members. But it was the police intelligence unit. It was the ATF. It was the FBI. We have three top-level law-enforcement people showing up to question people at the bakery about a disappearance, about a missing person.
We also know that they gave the police information about people they think may have been responsible. These are people that worked inside the bakery. We now know the police never questioned anybody else. They talked to the two people - John Bey and Saleem Bey - about it, but nobody else. So, the investigation into Waajid's death was not really followed up on by police, and that's something we're just now reporting.
COX: Now, what's next? This past weekend, for example, supporters of Your Black Muslim Bakery gathered to protest the closing of the bakery a year ago.
Mr. BUTLER: Right, and that's where we've got the information about what happened with Waajid. John Bey and Saleem Bey, these are two officers of the bakery who are on the board of directors, and when Waajid disappeared, they left. Saleem was the person talking to Chauncey saying, you've got to do a story about how the federal government is basically going to allow the bakery to go into bankruptcy. We want to come back and take over the bakery and get the finances right.
But one reason or another, it never did happen that way. So, what they're saying is that the bankruptcy was illegal, should never have been allowed to go forward, and - but they went to a lot of different officials. They went to the police, the DA. They went to members of Congress, members of the state assembly, and they were never able to get anybody to listen to them. So, what we're finding right now is they're very unhappy with the fact that the bakery is now gone. I don't know what they can do to bring it back, but their charges are that the bankruptcy was illegal, should never have been allowed to happen. And they say that their concerns, had they been followed up on, had they been paid attention to, would have prevented Chauncey's death.
COX: Do you know whether or not the National Association of Black Journalists, for example - we know that Chauncey Bailey's death - we're reporting that it was the first journalist to be murdered on American soil since 1993, and national organizations like that and others, are they taking up the cause as well?
Mr. BUTLER: Yeah. NABJ was the first organization to actually call for something like the project. You know, one of our members, Ken Cooper, sent an e-mail out and from that, Bryan Monroe, then president, got together with Dori Maynard at the Maynard Institute, and Sandy Close with New America Media and IRE, and launched this idea. So, NABJ has been involved - the reason I'm involved is I'm the NABJ board director for this region, and we wanted to have somebody, one of our members, on the board.
So, we're very interested in this, and one thing - when you talk about the first journalist killed since '93, the journalist killed in '93 was a Haitian-American journalist - a Haitian journalist, who was covering the Haitian community for Haitian radio, which happened to be in Florida. So, Chauncey was the first American journalist killed since 1976, when Don Bolles was killed in Arizona, which - that prompted the Arizona Project, upon which the Chauncey Bailey Project is loosely based.
COX: (Unintelligible) Bob Butler, thank you very much. Good luck with your ongoing investigation.
Mr. BUTLER: Thanks, Tony.
COX: Bob Butler is an independent journalist and reporter for the Chauncey Bailey Project. He joined us from the University of California-Berkley's Graduate School of Journalism.
(Soundbite of music)
COX: That's our show for today. Thanks so much for tuning in. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcasts, visit our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org. To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at nprnewsandviews.org. News & Notes was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, the judge in the Jena Six case has been removed for impropriety. We will talk about the implications with Chicago Tribune reporter Howard Witt.
(Soundbite of music)
COX: I'm Tony Cox. This is New & Notes.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.