Jaxon Van Derbeken
The Oakland police sergeant who led the investigation into the 2007 slaying of a newspaper editor has been cleared of internal charges that he compromised the probe to keep the leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery from being implicated, The Chronicle has learned.
Sgt. Derwin Longmire was told last week that acting Police Chief Howard Jordan had ordered that he be returned to duty. Longmire has been on paid leave for six months while the Police Department considered whether he should be fired for misconduct in investigating the killing of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey.
Jordan and other police officials concluded that Longmire should serve a five-day suspension for minor problems with other homicide cases, but that the 23-year department veteran had done nothing wrong in the Bailey probe, sources close to the investigation said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been made public.
Longmire’s attorney, Michael Rains, said details such as what Longmire will do when he goes back to work were still being worked out. He had been reassigned from the homicide unit to the patrol detail before being put on leave.
“I think we have a tentative agreement, but nothing has been signed off,” Rains said late Tuesday.
Jordan has also cleared Longmire’s immediate boss, Lt. Ersie Joyner, of failing to supervise the sergeant effectively, sources said. Joyner declined to comment, and Longmire could not be reached.
Officer Jeff Thomason, the department spokesman, said he could not comment on the personnel matter.
The department considered firing Longmire after the state attorney general’s office concluded he had mishandled the probe of the Aug. 2, 2007, killing of Bailey. State investigators said Longmire’s inquiry was “inexcusably lacking” for allegedly failing to look into bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV’s possible role in the killing.
Bey was indicted April 29 for allegedly ordering the killings of Bailey and two other men. The indictment was issued after the man who had been the only suspect, confessed killer and former bakery follower Devaughndre Broussard, made a plea deal with prosecutors and testified against Bey before a grand jury.
Bey’s alleged motives
Bey wanted Bailey dead because he believed the journalist was working on a story about Your Black Muslim Bakery’s internal problems, Broussard said. He said Bey also blamed Bailey for the 2003 cancer death of his father, Yusuf Bey, who founded the black self-empowerment group in 1968.
Broussard initially confessed in 2007 that he had carried out the Bailey killing himself. His attorney later said Broussard had been forced to “take the fall” after Longmire put him in a room with Bey at a police station, an encounter the sergeant did not record.
Longmire and Bey IV had known each other for two years before the Bailey killing. Several police investigators interviewed as part of the state probe cited that friendship in faulting the decision to put Longmire on the case.
In a memo to Jordan, acting Capt. Sean Whent, head of the police internal affairs unit, said the state findings showed Longmire “deliberately did an inadequate investigation … most likely due to a relationship” with Bey.
Even Jordan told state investigators in February that given Longmire’s friendship with the bakery leader, “I don’t see how you can form the conclusion that it’s not affecting his ability to investigate the case thoroughly.”
However, a police captain who considered the state findings as part of the disciplinary investigation and forwarded recommendations to Jordan apparently agreed with Rains that they lacked merit.
Attorney general’s investigators cited several supposed missteps by Longmire, including his failure to note data from a tracking device that police working on another case had placed on Bey’s car.
The tracker showed Bey’s car was outside Bailey’s home the night before the editor was slain. It also showed that the car had been at the scene of the killing in downtown Oakland within minutes after Bailey was shot.
However, Rains said prosecutors had known of the tracking device results because Longmire told them verbally the day he got them.
The state report also accused Longmire of omitting mention of a video secretly recorded at a San Leandro police station in which Bey boasted to acquaintances that Longmire would protect him in the Bailey case.
Rains responded that Longmire had known nothing of the recording until prosecutors told him about it.
The state investigation also faulted Longmire for putting Bey and Broussard in a room together after Broussard’s arrest Aug. 3, 2007, the day after Bailey’s slaying. Broussard emerged from the meeting and confessed.
Alameda County prosecutors who spoke to lawyers in Rains’ office, however, praised the tactic. Tom Rogers, a supervising assistant district attorney, said, “Derwin deserves credit for getting the confession.”
Longmire himself told state investigators that had Bey and Broussard been kept apart, “we’d have an open murder. That’s where we would be. Somehow, that … gets forgotten in all this stuff.”
Longmire always believed that Bey had orchestrated Bailey’s killing, Rains said, and did nothing to keep him from being charged. Any problems in the case were, at worst, caused by Longmire being “sloppy and inattentive to detail,” Rains said.