Dr. Yusuf Bey opened the doors to Your Black Muslim Bakery nearly 40 years ago, selling bean and carrot pies and hoping to inspire Oakland's poor to become "respectable and productive individuals."
The organization — which now includes chain of bakeries, a security service, a school and other businesses — was raided Friday, a day after the brazen daytime killing of 57-year-old Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey.
Seven people affilitated with the group have been arrested in connection with the killing and other violent crimes, including the bakery's chief executive officer, who is the son of its late founder.
Bailey's colleagues say he was working on an investigative story about the bakery's finances when he was killed by a masked gunman near the Alameda County courthouse in downtown Oakland.
Authorities on Saturday said they believe the gunman was Devaughndre Broussard, who was booked on murder charges and worked as a handyman for the group. Other suspects have been booked on charges including murder, kidnapping and assault, police said, but the only one named so far is the CEO, Yusuf Bey IV.
The Muslim group's headquarters at the original bakery and three Oakland houses tied to the group were raided before dawn Friday. Police said they recovered a gun and other evidence linked to Bailey's slaying and voiced confidence that his killer was among those arrested.
Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan said the raids were part of a yearlong investigation into a variety of violent crimes, including two homicides this year and a kidnapping and torture case.
An attorney for Bey IV, Lorna Brown, did not return calls seeking comment. Authorities had no information on an attorney for Broussard.
The arrests were the latest in a series of recent legal and financial troubles that have plagued the once-thriving business that Bey founded amid the social upheaval of 1968. Pledging to empower the city's black community, Bey espoused the tenets of the Black Muslim movement, selling books by Malcolm X and other black leaders alongside natural baked goods.
A member of the bakery said at a sidewalk news conference late Friday that the allegations do not reflect his group's principles.
"This is not a reflection of Dr. Yusuf Bey," said Shamir Yusuf Bey, who, like all bakery members, takes Yusuf Bey's surname. "We are all sons of Dr. Yusuf Bey. He has taught us morals; he has taught us how to be advocates in our community."
The bakery organization is a regional splinter group that is not affiliated with the Nation of Islam, though Shamir Yusuf Bey wore that group's trademark black suit and bowtie as he spoke in front of the newly boarded-up bakery building.
The group has deep roots in Oakland's life and politics, and for decades it played a positive role in Oakland's black community, said Cal State East Bay professor Benjamin Bowser, a sociologist who has chronicled the city's history.
The group served as an example of upward economic mobility in an impoverished community, and its members tried to serve as a buffer against the rising drug trade, Bowser said. The bakery has also long provided ex-convicts with one of the few places they could work after being released from prison.
"The Black Muslims along with the Black Panthers were instrumental in really keeping the widespread mass marketing of drugs out of east and west Oakland in the late 1960s, until the government focused on taking the Panthers out," Bowser said.
Any goodwill that Yusuf Bey enjoyed from the public began to wane in 1994 when he ran for mayor of Oakland. He received less than 5 percent of the vote after a campaign in which he said that women "belong back in the home" and that gays should not be allowed to teach school.
Yusuf Bey's organization began to further unravel in 2002, when he was accused of raping a girl who had worked for him. He died of colon cancer in 2003 while awaiting trial, but not before he anointed Waajid Aljawwaad Bey to lead the multimillion-dollar empire.
Five months later, Aljawwaad Bey's body was found buried in the Oakland hills. That crime has never been solved.
In June 2005 the leader of the Bey security service, John Bey, was shot outside his Oakland home. He survived, and his attacker was never found. Later that year, Yusuf Bey's 23-year-old son, Antar Bey, the organization's heir apparent, was killed in what police called a botched carjacking attempt at a gas station in North Oakland.
Months after Antar Bey's murder, his brother, Yusuf Bey IV, took over the bakery empire.
Charges are pending against him in a 2005 case in which he is accused of leading a Black Muslim group caught by surveillance cameras in November 2005 smashing up two Oakland corner stores. The men berated the stores' Muslim owners for selling alcohol to the black community even though alcohol is forbidden by Islam.
Your Black Muslim Bakery also has been plagued by financial problems in recent years. Records show the company filed for bankruptcy last October.
The financial problems grew even worse after Friday's raid, when county health inspectors shut down the bakery for health-code violations.