Chauncey Bailey Project

Chauncey Bailey trial: Witness saw man running like a football player away from 2007 shooting scene

Michael Wills Jr.
Michael Wills Jr.

Michael Wills Jr.

By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

OAKLAND — A man who lives close to where Michael Wills was shot to death in July 2007 told jurors in the murder trial of former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and a follower Tuesday morning that he saw someone running with a rifle moments after he heard shots.

“The shots were distinct and somewhat erratic in pattern,” said the witness, John Hopping. He went to a third floor window where he saw a man in tan pants and a blue knit cap run east on 63rd Street in Oakland, cradling a rifle, he said.

Hopping said he told police the man was around 5-feet 8-inches to 5-feet 10-inches tall and weighed perhaps 160 pounds.

The chief witness in the case, Devaughndre Broussard, testified two weeks ago that bakery member Antoine Mackey admitted killing Willis on Bey IV’s order. Bey IV and Mackey joked about the shooting and said Wills was targeted because he was white.

Broussard told jurors that Bey IV ordered him to kill two other people, the journalist Chauncey Bailey and a homeless man, Odell Roberson, and that Mackey helped him with both slayings. Bey IV and Mackey are now on trial for the killings; they have pleaded not guilty.

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Wills was shot after 3 a.m. July 12, 2007. Broussard testified that he got a phone call moments after hearing rifle shots and was told to open a gate to a parking area behind the bakery.

Bey IV’s Dodge Charger then turned into the compound and Mackey got out holding an assault rifle, Broussard said. Bey IV was driving, he added.

Hopping gave police only a general description of the man with the gun, he told jurors.

“He was fairly young and athletic looking. He was running in the middle of the street,” he said. “I saw the barrel of a gun protruding from his arm. He was leaning forward, like he played football, holding (the gun) very close to him.”

Although Mackey’s name was not mentioned during Hopping’s testimony, Mackey’s lawyer, Gary Sirbu, has accused Broussard of repeatedly lying to protect another bakery member, Richard Lewis, a former high school football player in San Francisco who played running back.

Broussard told jurors that Lewis was like a cousin during their childhoods, but he rejected Sirbu’s claims that he was framing Mackey for Lewis’s benefit.

Mackey, also a former football player, according to court records, is listed in jail records as 6-feet, 2-inches tall. Lewis is listed as 5-foot-8.

Hopping testified that he called 911 after the man ran past his window, then went out to San Pablo Avenue where he found Wills sprawled on the sidewalk near the end of a pedestrian walkway that separates two city softball fields from the Golden Gate School.

In other testimony Tuesday, a U.S. Bankruptcy trustee told jurors about the bakery’s bankruptcy case, which he oversaw in 2007.

Broussard claims Bey IV ordered Bailey killed to keep him from writing about it in the Oakland Post.

Trustee Matthew Kretzer told jurors how the case began in 2006 as an attempt by Bey IV to protect the bakery from lenders and the IRS and buy time to reorganize its finances.

The bakery owed $700,000 to a finance company and $237,910 to the IRS, Kretzer said.

But little evidence of a true effort to reorganize was submitted to the court, he said, and the case was converted to liquidation.

The bakery “didn’t seem to make any progress at all,” he said. “As far as we could tell they were not paying payroll taxes.”

 Contact investigative reporter Thomas Peele at tpeele@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/thomas_peele.

 Chauncey Bailey Project reports are also being featured at:
Center for Investigative Reporting
Maynard Institute
New America Media
San Francisco Bay Guardian

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