Unsolved 1986 slaying of baker linked to founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery
By Thomas Peele, A.C. Thompson and Bob Butler, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — On a June night in 1986, police discovered a twice-shot, blood-smeared body spilling out of a red Ford van on Marshall Street in North Oakland.
Police identified the victim as Peter August Kaufman and, according to a brief news report from the time, figured robbery might be the motive. Nearly 22 years later, the killing remains unsolved.
Now, through interviews and documents — including a three-paragraph news account, a death certificate, coroner and police reports and court testimony — the Chauncey Bailey Project has uncovered a link between Kaufman’s killing and Yusuf Ali Bey, the late founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery and a fiery preacher who touted the virtues of aggression and called his enemies “devils.”
Kaufman’s death is the seventh slaying tied to the controversial religious leader and his followers over a 40-year period for which no arrests have been made, according to police reports and other records.
Two weeks ago, also in response to Bailey Project inquiries, Santa Barbara police reopened an investigation of a 1968 doublekilling linked to a mosque there, led by Yusuf Bey and his brother, Billy X Stephens, who later changed his name to Raab Muhammad and now lives in Oakland.
The bakery also has been implicated in an eighth killing, the Aug. 2 shooting death of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey, who was working on stories about the bakery when he was killed. A bakery handyman has been charged with murdering Bailey.
The Chauncey Bailey Project discovered the bakery link to the Kaufman slaying by examining a passage from a deposition in a 2003 lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against Bey, the bakery and Alameda County by a trio of women who’d been raised by the cleric and claimed he’d tormented and raped them while they were children.
Kaufman may have died for stumbling upon one of Yusuf Bey’s dark secrets, according to the deposition.
Days before he was shot, Kaufman walked into a bakery bathroom and discovered Bey raping a young boy, according to one woman’s testimony.
Within days, the man she identified in testimony only as Usman was “blasted” as he was “sitting in the passenger’s seat” of a friend’s van.
“I heard him say out of his own mouth that he walked into the restroom and saw Brother Bey sexually assaulting this young man,” testified the woman, who is identified in transcripts only as Jane Doe 1 because she’s a sexual abuse victim.
Kaufman tried to intervene, asking the preacher what he was doing, Jane Doe 1 testified.
She said Kaufman discussed Bey’s attack with his co-workers, telling them, “I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what I seen with my own eyes,” she testified. The baker “was killed days following that conversation.”
She testified she heard that Bey’s son, Akbar Bey, who was 13 at the time, might have shot Kaufman.
Yusuf Bey died of cancer in 2003 while facing 27 felony charges for sexually assaulting minors; Akbar Bey was killed in 1994 in a dispute over $1,200 in marijuana.
Kaufman “was a really nice guy,” Jane Doe 1 said in a brief interview last week, adding that she can still “see his face. He was tall and kind of thin.”
Oakland police documents show Kaufman was shot on the 6200 block of Marshall Street, about three blocks away from the bakery’s San Pablo Avenue headquarters.
The officer who found Kaufman noted that he’d fallen out of the “right door of the van.” Two bullets had ripped through his skull and torso, shredding his brain and puncturing his heart and right lung.
Kaufman, who was 32 at the time of his death, was born in Oakland but spent his youth in Louisiana. According to his death certificate, he lived at the bakery’s compound and had toiled as a baker for seven years.
His mother, who still lives in the Bay Area, said his killing “was very painful” to her. She asked not to be identified because she remains fearful of Bey’s followers and family.
Jane Doe 1 also testified that a man she identified as Robert Green, who also worked for the Bey organization, owned the van and was in the vehicle when Kaufman was shot.
The Chauncey Bailey Project couldn’t locate Green or find any more details about him.
Oakland police last month released two pages of a 1986 report on the crime, but refused to divulge any additional information, citing the open nature of the case.
Jane Doe 1′s statements are echoed by those of her sister, Jane Doe 2, who also testified about the killing of Kaufman.
“His name was Usman, and he was shot in a van,” she said in the depositions. “There was another guy who used to be at the bakery, as well. And them two was together, and all I know is that he got shot up in the van. And the other guy, he survived, but Usman didn’t.”
Jane Doe 2 portrayed Bey as a sinister, Mafia boss-like character who knew how to use violence — and threats of violence — to get his way, promising to kill her if she spoke to anyone about his sexual proclivities.
She said Bey told her, “If you tell anybody, you’ll be floating in the Bay, you and your family.”
The sexual abuse suit also named Alameda County as a defendant, claiming county social workers failed to protect the sisters, who were placed under the guardianship of one of Bey’s many Muslim-law wives.
The case was settled late last year with the county paying $188,888, while admitting no wrongdoing.
In January, after the case was settled — and nearly three years after the statements were given — the county’s top lawyer, Richard Winnie, delivered a box-load of the women’s testimony and other legal documents to the office of District Attorney Tom Orloff.
“I turned it over to the district attorney’s office and said, ‘There are some allegations in here you should pursue,’” Winnie said. “I’ve never heard what happened with the information.”
But O’Malley said this week that prosecutors didn’t know about the possible clues to the Kaufman homicide in the transcripts, and had never been alerted to them.
“We’re going through them right now to see if there’s anything that requires our attention,” O’Malley said, adding a call from the Chauncey Bailey Project was “the first we’ve heard of it.”
Attorney David Washington, who represented the sisters, said Monday he’s surprised homicide detectives have yet to contact his clients.
“I’m shocked,” Washington said. “I used to be a police officer. I’d want to follow every lead.”
His clients, he said, are willing to cooperate with police.
Cecily Burt, Josh Richman, Mary Fricker and Veronica Martinez contributed to this report. Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and A.C. Thompson is an investigative reporter for New America Media. Bob Butler is a freelance reporter.