Year of the Serpent
Part Five


 
Wayne Yee was extremely upset about the arrest of the suspect in the bank robbery. Not only was the accused a paid associate of Chinese Youth Alternatives, but also the ensuing publicity about that connection had brought the glare of public interest into focus on Wayne's operation--an undesirable scrutiny at that point in time. But Wayne was blessed with a keen political nose. He knew how to sniff out a skunk and come up with a rose.
His annoyance notwithstanding, on December 17th Wayne hosted a "Who Done It?" party at the Chef's Unique Restaurant on Sutter Street, by invitation only. The theme declared his associate's innocence and implied that a fine, upstanding young Chinese man worthy of his C.Y.A.'s brouhaha might be standing scapegoat for a Police Department that couldn't find anybody else to blame for the robbery. The gala's purpose was to raise money for the accused's defense if the case actually went to trial.
Wayne's was a name that had surfaced quickly in the newly born files of the Gang Task Force, just as his was a face that had shone brightly in the city's political life for the previous few years. Less well known was his adult criminal record of detentions in 1972 when, at the age of 21, he had suddenly gone straight. He had since ingratiated himself with many politically involved persons and had even served as a California delegate on the committee for the nomination of Governor Jerry Brown for President at the 1976 National Democratic Convention.
His privately- and publicly-funded Chinese Youth Alternatives had made great waves on the local scene. He made a show of being seen in the company of such celebrities as Chief of Police Gain and District Attorney Freitas. Hugh Levine and members of the Gang Task Force likened his magnetic personality to that of Jim Jones who posed as a community leader in the days before inciting his fanatic followers to murder and mass suicide in the jungles of South America's Guyana. Wayne had even gone so far as to write to Chief Gain shortly after the Golden Dragon massacre and offer his cooperation in breaking the case.
Wayne began to figure prominently in the investigation all right, but not quite as he had intended. Early on, the Gang Task Force got more than mere glimmerings of the fact that Wayne Yee was really the prime mover in the Joe Boys under cover of his Chinese Youth Alternatives. This had come to their attention even before he and Gary Pang, his right-hand man, had appeared on television with Marilyn Baker to blame the gang problem on everyone else.
As the D.A.'s man on the case, Hugh Levine sought to protect his boss from political embarrassment. In mid-October he counseled Freitas to have nothing further to do with either Wayne or Gary. Wayne, in particular, had been targeted for closer examination in the Golden Dragon case. "For your political well-being," he told the D.A., "you should sever any ties with these two." Freitas accepted the advice and thereafter refused Wayne's requests for appointments.
In the first days of the Gang Task Force's existence, Wayne seized every opportunity to confront its members. He might be shooting snooker in the arcade in Japantown when someone like Dan Foley and partner Fred Mollat strolled in. "Hi, I'm Wayne Yee. You guys must be with the Gang Task Force. I've had a meeting with Chief Gain and your own lieutenant, Dan Murphy. They are going to give me a list of members in the Force. I've gotta check you guys out, see. The Chinese community has to have some input in a thing like this. You better be qualified, y'know. I mean, we don't want you beating the shit out of 'Chinamen' and stuff like that. Going crazy over the gangs, y'know, thinking just because we're Chinese, we're all crooks."
The cops had to admit to themselves that he seemed to know what was going on all the time, even though they knew he had never talked to Murphy and there was no way he would be given a list of the Force. That was the best kept secret in town...except for the names of the Golden Dragon perpetrators. Those names were known to the Gang Task Force by September 27th. All they had to was get the evidence to prove it.
Meanwhile, they couldn't help but be embarrassed by Wayne's bragging about his informal chats with Chief Gain, because they knew it was true. A unique situation existed in the San Francisco Police Department at that time. Police Chief Charles Gain was extremely liberal in his attitude toward certain groups. He had had meetings with every radical outfit in the Bay area, but refused to hold legitimate conversations with his own men from the station level on up.
It was a hard subject to broach to the chief. He'd been asked many times not to have meetings with Wayne, but had replied, in so many words, that unless a man were proved dirty, he, as a public-spirited and totally committed Chief of Police, would meet personally with anybody. Apparently, that did not include his underlings. The Gang Task Force was especially put out where Wayne Yee was concerned. They didn't want him to be given any clues to the Golden Dragon investigation. They felt strongly that he knew a lot about it and may even have been involved in it, at least indirectly.
Wayne had seen Gain on several occasions, whereas he was lying about talking to Lt. Murphy. The commanding officer of the Force was indeed anxious for such an interview to take place. On November 1st, he had written to Wayne: "During the past two months several attempts have been made by Inspectors Ron Schneider and John McKenna of the Gang Task Force to meet with you and discuss matters of mutual concern. These attempts were made telephonically, and for some reason the appointment made by you failed to materialize. It is hoped that this letter can reintroduce the subject of a meeting. If a location other than the Hall of Justice is preferred, please make this known by calling me."
Murphy wanted to get Wayne's input, knowing the young man had his fingers on the pulse of Chinatown. The captain also wanted him on record as to his claims to have had all those meetings with the Chief, the D.A., the mayor, et cetera.
On November 8th, Wayne Yee sent a return letter: "Please accept my apologies for not having been able to meet with Inspectors Schneider and McKenna or other members of the Gang Task Force. I agree that such a meeting should occur. However, at this time it is extremely difficult for me to arrange a specific time as to when we may meet. I am presently weighed with formal responsibilities and commitments owed to the agency [Chinese Youth Alternatives] and its funding sources. I will keep in mind the essentiality of such a meeting and will inform you and other members of the Gang Task Force as to when I will be available. Thank you for your patience and understanding. I will try my best to set a time for this meeting as soon as possible."
Wayne never came forward for an official meeting. That was typical of various organizations in Chinatown. They were happy to pass remarks on television and in the press about the negligence of the police and the ambulance services, but when actually approached for assistance or information, they couldn't seem to find the time.
In early November, information was received that Wayne was getting requests from a criminologist named Matt Yeager, reputed to be on the staff of Congressman John Conyers of Michigan. These calls pertained to a speech Wayne was to present before a Congressional subcommittee meeting to be held on the morning of the 6th of December in the San Francisco Federal Building. The meeting was to center on youth problems, and Wayne was scheduled as first speaker. It being an open hearing, Jim Deasy of the Gang Task Force was assigned to attend.
Word came in on November 15th that Wayne had made arrangements for his C.Y.A. to vacate its headquarters at the end of the month. He would apply for unemployment then. Many members of the Chinese Youth Alternatives Board, including television journalist Marilyn Baker, had resigned already. Clearly, the organization was falling apart.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris