The Killing of a Journalist

Voice staff writer Chris Thompson not only knew the Oakland reporter shot dead by a follower of the Yusuf Bey family, he'd also incurred the family's wrath

The transcripts to which Bey refers consist of testimony from a preliminary hearing that occurred three months after the incident. After Onipede's encounter with Nedir Bey, the Oakland police arrested four men, including Bey, and charged them with three felonies apiece. And yet, Deputy District Attorney Scott Swisher, who oversaw the prosecution, had some doubts about Onipede's testimony. His instincts pegged Onipede as a less-than-perfect citizen, and the marks on Onipede's body, while numerous and unsettling, did not quite match what he claims Bey did to him. The following account is drawn from Onipede's testimony at Nedir Bey's pretrial hearing.

According to Onipede's testimony, Bey ordered him to stand up, and two men -- Abaz Bey and Basheer Muhammad -- searched him from head to foot. Onipede sat on a wooden chair, and the three men surrounded him. Nedir Bey resumed his interrogation. "As I answered him and he said I am lying, that is when the very first blow came to my ear from the back," Onipede said.

When Abaz Bey slapped Onipede's head with a glove, everyone allegedly jumped in. According to Onipede's testimony, at least four or five people began hitting and kicking him. Nedir Bey used the flashlight to beat the length of his body, and Onipede fell cowering to the floor. They stomped and kicked him in the chest, legs, and abdomen. As Onipede raised his arms to ward off the blows, Bey allegedly smashed the flashlight down so hard that it broke Onipede's watch and dislocated his wrist. Two men allegedly pried Onipede's legs apart so Nedir Bey could stomp on his genitals. Abaz Bey stuffed a towel in Onipede’s mouth to muffle his screams. As Onipede testified about what the men did, he broke down sobbing.


Chris Thompson's Other Stories on the Yusuf Bey Family

How Official Oakland Kept the Bey Empire Going
The troublesome history of Oakland's most prominent Black Muslims ó and the political establishment that protects them.
Published: November 20, 2002

Blood & Money: Endgame
Even in his death, Yusuf Bey is lionized as an elder statesman rather than branded as a thug. Meanwhile, his victims reflect.
Published: October 8, 2003

The beating stopped, according to Onipede's testimony, and the men hauled him back onto the chair. As Olen Grant looked on, Nedir Bey accused Onipede of cheating his friend Larry Chin. Then the men allegedly turned it up a notch. "Mr. Abaz Bey then went to the kitchen area and then took a knife and then turned on the stove right there to heat the knife," Onipede testified. The knife glowed cherry red, and Abaz Bey used it to burn Onipede's fingers and wrists. Onipede begged him to stop. "I was explaining to him that we're in the month of Ramadan," he testified. "That I'm Muslim also, and that this is very unfair what is being done to me. And that I have no reason to lie or even cheat Mr. Larry Chin."

After making a brief phone call to Chin, Nedir Bey allegedly demanded $30,000 from Onipede. According to Onipede's testimony, the Muslims gave him a phone, and he called his friend, California Highway Patrol officer Jeremiah McDowell, who refused to comment for this story. Onipede said he told McDowell he needed some money right then. Abaz Bey listened in on the conversation. After thirty seconds, Abaz Bey allegedly grabbed the receiver and used it to beat Onipede on the side of his head.

Onipede testified that Abaz Bey searched him, pulling out credit cards and $620 in cash. The door opened, and in walked Larry Chin. Thank God, Onipede said he thought -- he'll put a stop to this. But Chin and Nedir just sat down on the couch and mulled over the escrow papers. Nedir looked up at Onipede and allegedly bumped up the price: $30,000 now, and $70,000 later. He demanded to know how much money Onipede had in his bank account, and how high he could max out on his Visa. When Onipede said he had barely any money, Bey said he was lying.

Nedir Bey allegedly asked Onipede what kind of car he owned. When he answered a Hyundai stick shift, Chin said that wouldn't do. "He said his wife does not drive a stick shift, and that it will not be useful to him," Onipede testified.

Nedir Bey stood up and walked toward Onipede. According to the victim's testimony, Bey pulled the gun from his holster and jammed the barrel into Onipede's neck. Abaz Bey and Basheer Muhammad allegedly pulled Onipede off the chair and dragged him into the bathroom. "Do you know how to swim?" Abaz Bey joked. Onipede claimed that as he got to his knees, Bey and Muhammad tried to shove his head inside the toilet. Onipede fought back, fell to the side, and begged them to stop, but the three men started beating him. Onipede said he lost all sense of time. All he remembered was the pain.

According to Onipede's testimony, he and the three men walked back into the living room. As Onipede crawled back on the chair, Muhammad lost control. Shouting "Now I'll finish the job!" he grabbed the flashlight and worked up a frenzy, beating Onipede terribly. It got so bad that Chin allegedly spoke up. Don't break any of his bones, he warned.

Finally, Onipede testified, Muhammad let up, and it was time for Nedir to step in. Handing Onipede a piece of paper, he allegedly made him write and sign a statement affirming that he cheated Larry Chin out of money. When he finished, Muhammad allegedly ordered Olen Grant to hit his own business partner. "Please," Grant answered, "do not make me do this." A fourth man allegedly swung at Grant, dropping him to the floor. Hit him, they ordered. This time, Grant obeyed.

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