Oakland police have urged 4 others to surrender on vandalism charges
Oakland police arrested two men on felony charges of vandalizing two West Oakland corner markets in attacks in which several men in suits and bow ties demanded that the outlets stop selling liquor to African Americans.
Both suspects are affiliated with a local religious sect long suspected of using violence and intimidation in its business dealings, police said.
The men were identified as Yusuf Bey IV, 19, the son of the late Black Muslim leader Yusuf Bey, founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery in North Oakland, and Donald Eugene Cunningham, 73, a bakery associate. Bey and Cunningham surrendered Tuesday at Oakland police headquarters after meeting with police and attorneys.
The younger Bey was described by a law-enforcement source Tuesday as a rising leader in the independent Black Muslim group, which operates four bakeries, a Muslim school, a security business and an apartment building. He took over following his father’s death from colon cancer in 2003.
The two men were arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats, felony vandalism, conspiracy and robbery in the attacks Nov. 23 at San Pablo Liquor on San Pablo Avenue and New York Market on Market Street about 12 blocks away, authorities said.
Yusuf Bey IV was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail at an Oakland jail. Cunningham was being interviewed by police late Tuesday, said Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan.
Four other men are being sought on arrest warrants in connection with the vandalism at the two stores, Jordan said. He said authorities had been in contact with the men through intermediaries and urged them to surrender. Their names have not been released.
Jordan said police were still investigating whether the vandalism was connected to an arson fire that destroyed New York Market early Monday and the reported kidnapping of store owner Abdel “Tony” Hamdan around the time of the blaze.
Police found Hamdan in the trunk of a car at 1:40 p.m. Monday in the parking lot of a Safeway store in El Cerrito.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Hamdan said, “Please, right now I want nobody calling. Sir, I got nothing else to say.”
The San Pablo store’s surveillance camera caught a group of about a dozen men in suits and bow ties trashing the store. The group took a shotgun belonging to a store clerk.
Jordan said the suspects were not affiliated with the Nation of Islam, a national organization led by Louis Farrakhan. Police earlier indicated that the suspects were wearing suits and bow ties consistent with Nation of Islam dress.
The surveillance video played a key role in the arrests, police said. “The video is very important,” said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena.
When he turned himself in Tuesday afternoon, Yusuf Bey IV was accompanied by his mother, Daulet Bey, who said, “We don’t condone what happened. We want to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
The suspect had denied any involvement, telling a local newspaper that he had learned of the vandalism through media reports.
At the main bakery on San Pablo Avenue on Tuesday, the younger Bey’s sister, Jannah Bey, 25, proclaimed the suspects’ innocence. She also said she understood the anger toward stores selling liquor to African Americans.
“The idea was good, but the way it was carried out could have been different,” she said, referring to the Nov. 23 vandalism. She said she didn’t recognize her brother or anyone else from the surveillance tape.
She added, “Maybe this will be a wake-up call to the community” with residents realizing that liquor stores in Oakland were “not there to help them.”
She said Bey’s group had nothing to do with the arson fire or kidnapping. “Anyone who knows our history … we don’t handle things like that,” she said.
A relative of Cunningham’s who would not give her name declined comment when reached by phone Tuesday.
The leader of a local grocer’s group reacted cautiously to the arrests.
“We’re happy that they made these arrests,” said Mohamed Saleh Mohamed, president of the Yemenie American Grocers Association, which represents more than 250 liquor stores in Oakland. “It shows a little progress, but we still don’t know what’s next.”
Mohamed said, “We feel pretty frustrated. We feel very vulnerable right now. The video shows 12 guys. “
The arrests come amid a power struggle within Yusuf Bey’s organization after he died.
Three members of the group have been victims of violence since his death, including Bey’s 23-year-old-son, Antar, who was shot to death Oct. 25 in an attempted carjacking. Antar Bey had been serving as chief executive officer of the Oakland group.
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