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Who Really Killed Chauncey Bailey?

Bailey was the first journalist killed in the U.S. because of his reporting since 1976. One man confessed to the shooting, but a group of journalists investigating his Oakland, Calif., murder say others were involved.

Chauncey Bailey

The murder trial focusing on the conspiracy to kill journalist Chauncey Bailey started last month. Bailey, who died in 2007, was the first journalist killed in the U.S. over a story since Don Bolles was murdered in a car bomb in 1976. Bailey was gunned down in the daylight of morning in downtown Oakland, Calif.; he'd been working on a story about a local bakery and mosque called Your Black Muslim Bakery.

In the wake of Bailey's death, we've learned that the confessed gunman, Devaughndre Broussard, was connected to the bakery. Broussard now alleges that he was ordered to kill Bailey by the bakery's leader, Yusuf Bey IV, and that Antoine Mackey assisted in the murder. Broussard has struck a deal to avoid life in jail by testifying against Mackey and Bey IV, both of whom face life without the possibility of parole.

But the conspiracy trial might not have happened had it not been for a small group of journalists who came together after Bailey's death to form the Chauncey Bailey Project in order to finish the reporter's work. And in the process, the project used evidence in the possession of police to shine light on the alleged bakery conspiracy and forced the police to go beyond the simple narrative of a black-on-black crime incident.

Bob Butler was one of the project's founding members. He didn't know Bailey particularly well, but he told The Root that as a fellow journalist, he felt compelled to support Bailey's work and help investigate the conspiracy that police were initially ignoring.

The Root: How did the Bailey Project begin?

Bob Butler: After Chauncey was killed, one of the members of [the National Association of Black Journalists] got on our listserv and said that we need to start some kind of collaboration to finish Chauncey's work. A couple of days later at NABJ's annual convention in Las Vegas, the then-president of the organization, Bryan Monroe, announced that he had talked with Dori Maynard of the Maynard Institute and Sandy Close of New American Media, and they were going to create a journalism collaborative to finish Chauncey's story. That was really the main goal, to finish the story that Chauncey was working on.

TR: His story was really focused on the bankruptcy of Your Black Muslim Bakery, right?

BB: The story was focused on the bakery, the financial problems it was having and what one [former] member of the bakery board of directors called an illegal takeover of the bakery by the younger generation. In essence, what the story said was the bakery had financial problems because the young guys didn't know how to run a business. And that was kind of it. It was not long on any kind of new information.

If I'm going to be worried about something, it's going to have to be something that's got a blockbuster angle to it, but the story had none of that. So in essence, these guys killed Chauncey for no reason, if indeed these are the guys who did it.

TR: What was the police reaction to Bailey's death, and what role did the Bailey Project have in influencing that reaction?