Oakland police Sgt. Derwin Longmire filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco today alleging that high-level police commanders tarnished his reputation by accusing him of compromising the investigation into the shooting death of journalist Chauncey Bailey in August 2007.
Longmire’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges that Longmire, who joined the Oakland Police Department in 1985, has suffered lost earnings, bonuses, benefits and career opportunities as well as “humiliation, shame, embarrassment, anxiety and emotional distress” because of “false allegations.”
The suit, filed by San Francisco attorney John Houston Scott, claims that prior to August 2007, Officer Jesse Grant, Officer Andre Rachal and Lt. Michael Yoell “falsely accused” Longmire, whom the suit says is “an African-American man of Christian faith,” of “interfering with a criminal investigation because of his race and perceived association with the Your Black Muslim Bakery” in Oakland.
Bailey was shot to death in downtown Oakland on Aug. 2, 2007, while walking from his apartment to his office at the Oakland Post, where he was the editor. The paper’s publisher, Paul Cobb, said Bailey was working on a story based on his investigation into the bakery’s finances.
The suit says Longmire, who worked in the department’s homicide unit, was on call and was assigned to investigate Bailey’s death.
It says Longmire was able to get bakery handyman Devaughndre Broussard to confess that he killed Bailey because of Longmire’s “experience as an investigator and prior police contacts with the bakery and its members.”
The suit says Longmire believed bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV “was involved in the Bailey murder and instructed Broussard to carry it out” but his investigation into Bey’s involvement was redirected by Lt. Ersie Joyner, his supervisor, because of “a strategic decision by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office.”
The suit doesn’t say what the strategic decision was, but district attorney officials have said they initially focused on prosecuting Bey for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and torture of two women in Oakland in May 2007 instead of charging him for Bailey’s murder.
Bey was indicted last April on three counts of murder for the deaths of Bailey and two other men in Oakland in the summer of 2007. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 17.
Bey is scheduled to stand trial in the kidnapping and torture case after his murder trial is completed. Bakery associate Richard Lewis was convicted of kidnapping, torture and carjacking in connection with that case today and faces a life term when he’s sentenced on June 4.
Broussard pleaded guilty last May 7 to two counts of voluntary manslaughter for the deaths of Bailey and another man and promised to testify against Bey.
In a statement to prosecutors before he entered his plea, Broussard said he killed Bailey and the other man because Bey ordered him to do so.
Longmire’s suit says that shortly after Broussard was arrested in August 2007 he “falsely accused Longmire of beating a confession out of him,” a complaint that triggered an Internal Affairs investigation into Longmire.
The suit alleges that Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan “allied himself with Grant, Yoell, Rachal, attorneys for Broussard, the Chauncey Bailey Project and others to cause Longmire to be publicly accused of compromising the investigation of the Bailey murder.”
The suit says the Internal Affairs probe was “biased” and resulted in Longmire being “punitively” transferred from the homicide division to the patrol division on Feb. 9, 2009, and then suspended and placed on administrative leave two months later.
According to the suit, after Longmire complained that the justification to terminate him was based on “numerous due process violations and unlawful discrimination,” Jordan eventually realized that the allegations of misconduct could not be factually or legally supported.
Longmire finally returned to work last Dec. 23, according to the suit.
Longmire’s suit seeks unspecified general and punitive damages from the city of Oakland, Jordan and Lt. Sean Whent, who heads the Internal Affairs unit. It also seeks injunctive relief to remedy what he alleges are unlawful practices by the city and Police Department leaders.
A spokesman for Oakland City Attorney John Russo said Russo can’t comment on Longmire’s suit because he hasn’t seen it yet.
Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said department officials can’t comment on the specific allegations in the suit.
Thomason said Longmire’s allegations will be investigated by an outside party that the department will hire.
He said the Internal Affairs unit normally investigates complaints against the department but in this case it won’t because the head of Internal Affairs is named as a defendant.
Attorney Michael Rains, who represented Longmire during the Internal Affairs probe, said, “This case stands as yet another example in a long line of cases where highly dedicated and capable police officers are being treated by their employer in the most unconscionable manner one can imagine.”
Rains said, “There was not one iota of evidence which indicated that Sgt. Longmire’s allegiances to the Oakland Police Department and his law enforcement duties were compromised from any relationship or friendship he had with members of the bakery.”
He said that during the Internal Affairs investigation “evidence beneficial to Sgt. Longmire was either systematically withheld or lost or destroyed and the department never offered nor attempted to offer an explanation for how this occurred.”
Longmire’s suit has been assigned to Magistrate Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco.