His name was Chauncey Bailey, and just this past week he was honored posthumously with the George Polk Award - one of journalism's most prestigious honors - for the story that may have cost him his life.
The story Bailey was working on was about, of all things, a bakery. But not any ordinary bakery: it's called "Your Black Muslim Bakery," and as CNN's Anderson Cooper reports, it was once a multi-million-dollar business as well as a major religious and political power in Oakland.
But the bakery's leaders were known for using tactics right out of "The Godfather." Bailey was investigating some of those tactics, which made some bakery leaders angry.
And angering the bakery was risky business, as Oakland police knew all too well.
Transcript: Devaughndre Broussard interview
"Rumors about them killing people or, forcing them to do stuff that they didn't want to do, was rampant throughout the community," Assistant Chief Howard Jordan remembers. "People were scared to talk. People were scared to call the police."Jordan has been an Oakland cop for 19 years. He says Your Black Muslim Bakery was on police radar for a long time.
It looks harmless enough on the outside, but at its height, the bakery employed about 200 people, many of them ex-convicts, who converted to Islam. And some of them didn't seem to spend too much time in the kitchen.
Your Black Muslim Bakery opened its doors in Oakland more than 30 years ago, selling bean pies and fish sandwiches. It was started by a man who called himself Yusuf Bey, a black Muslim who preached a philosophy of self-reliance and self-esteem.
Over the years, the bakery provided jobs and hope to hundreds of African-Americans in Oakland's inner city. But the positive outward image of the bakery never told the whole story. Inside the building, there were some very sinister things going on.
"It doesn't seem like many folks at the bakery were baking too many pies. It seemed to have just become a criminal enterprise," Cooper remarks.
"That's a fairly accurate statement," Jordan agrees. "It went from a business that was conducting legitimate business to a business interested in doing fraud, real estate fraud, assaults, robberies, vandalism, to promote a criminal cause versus a religious cause."
But in 2002, bakery founder Yusuf Bey was arrested on 27 counts of abusing and raping 12 and 13-year-old girls taken in by the bakery. He was accused of fathering children by them, and of stealing their welfare payments.
According to many reports, Bey fathered more than 40 children by different women at the bakery. As the Bey family, and its business, grew, they opened a dozen stores and owned a security company, a dry cleaner, a school, and properties in the area. In the process, the bakery became something of a law unto itself.
"A lot of Oakland cops told me that they left certain neighborhoods to the Bey family," says reporter Chris Thompson.
"Let them take care of business however they wanted?" Cooper asks.
"Yeah," Thompson says.
Thompson revealed the bakery's secrets in the East Bay Express, a weekly paper. He exposed a trail of "violence, brutality and fraud that stretches back almost a decade." Members of the bakery were furious.