Witnesses take the stand in Chauncey Bailey murder trial
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — A woman with her baby grandchild in her car stopped at a red light on First Avenue near Lake Merritt on the morning of Aug. 2, 2007, looked around and said to herself, “Oh, there goes Chauncey Bailey.”
The woman, Sandra Moffett, said she knew Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post, from “functions around Oakland where you needed a reporter.”
“I’ve read his articles,” she said Tuesday from the witness stand on the first day of testimony in the trial of two men charged in Bailey’s killing. She noticed that Bailey had recently gotten a haircut. His short dreadlocks were gone.
Then, she told a jury of seven women and five men, a man with a “long gun” ran “full tilt” across the street. “I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, he has a gun,’ ” Moffett said.
The man was dressed in black and wore a mask, she said. He ran toward an AC Transit bus.
Her description matched the clothes and actions of Devaughndre Broussard, who police say later confessed to shooting Bailey as the journalist walked to his job in downtown Oakland.
Moffett was the first witness prosecutor Melissa Krum called to the stand in the triple-murder trial of former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and his co-defendant, Antoine Mackey. Bey IV is charged with ordering Bailey and two other men killed in summer 2007. Mackey is charged with killing one of the men, Michael Wills, and helping in the slayings of Bailey and the third man, Odell Roberson.
Bey IV and Mackey, both 25, have pleaded not guilty. They face life in prison without parole if convicted.
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The circumstances surrounding Bailey’s death were the focus of Tuesday’s proceedings, with Krum calling witnesses who placed Bailey and the masked gunman at the scene, as well as the first officer who arrived at the shooting.
The testimony came after Bey IV and Mackey’s court-appointed lawyers, Gene Peretti and Gary Sirbu, said they would reserve their opening statements until after Krum presents her case, which is expected to take weeks.
Moffett said that as she watched, she thought for a moment maybe the man wasn’t carrying a gun. Maybe, she said, he “was just running for the bus.”
But he didn’t get on, she said, and then he ran back across the street. Then there was no question that he was carrying a gun, she said. She did not see him use it, though.
The man headed for a parked white van, Moffett said. The van’s brake lights were on. “They were very bright,” she said. The man with the gun got in the passenger side of the van. She said she saw the top of his head duck inside as the door closed.
Krum contends Mackey was driving the van.
Moffett said she quickly lost sight of the van as she continued up First Avenue. She called her husband, who called police to report what his wife had seen.
Bailey, Krum said, was walking to the Post, where he was writing a story about Bey IV and the bakery, which was in bankruptcy proceedings. Bey IV, Krum told jurors in her opening statements Monday, ordered Broussard and Mackey to kill Bailey to stop the story.
The hit was supposed to go down near Bailey’s apartment near Lake Merritt, Krum said, but Broussard and Mackey lost Bailey.
They saw him again, she said in her opening statement, walking by the lake, where Broussard proposed a drive-by killing. But Mackey balked.
Instead, they waited for Bailey at 14th and Alice streets, where Krum’s next witness, Jia Hong Zhou, was waiting for someone to unlock the door at his workplace, the Hong Fook Center on 14th Street.
He told jurors through a Cantonese interpreter that about 7:25 a.m. he, too, saw a masked man in black, running “at a sprint.” The man had a gun, he said.
Zhou didn’t see Bailey walking along 14th Street, but said he heard two sounds like “a firecracker.”
He looked down 14th Street toward the sound, and saw the feet of a man lying on the ground. From his vantage point, he couldn’t see the entire body.
The masked man, Zhou said, started to run away from the body, but then turned and ran back. Standing at Bailey’s feet, Zhou said, the gunman fired again. Then he sprinted across 14th Street and got in the passenger side of a white van.
On cross-examination, Sirbu asked Zhou if he was scared, given the violence he witnessed. Zhou said he was scared, and admitted under further questioning that he needs glasses but wasn’t wearing them.
“You can’t tell us with absolute certainty the path that (the gunman) took when he ran, can you?” Sirbu said.
Zhou replied, “Yes, I am certain.”
Another witness, Kyung Kim, testified through a Korean interpreter that she also saw a man in black holding “a long-sized gun” run across 14th Street as she walked up Alice Street. “I heard three shots,” she said, and saw the gunman run to the passenger side of a white van.
The first person to arrive at the shooting scene, Oakland police Officer Trenton Thompson, said Bailey suffered a massive wound. “He was missing part of his face, his head,” Thompson said, adding that he checked for a “rise and fall” of the victim’s chest, but there wasn’t one.
Later, an Alameda police officer who, on Aug. 3, 2007, helped raid the bakery duplex where Broussard and Mackey lived, said he saw a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun with a short barrel and a pistol grip thrown from a first-floor window. The next witness, Alameda County sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Lewis, testified that he arrested the only person in the room from where the gun was thrown: Broussard.
Reach investigative reporter Thomas Peele at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at twitter.com/thomas_peele.