Sunday, May 24, 2015

One Murder But Several Victims

In April, 1985 a 13-year old Detroit boy was killed when someone raked the front of his uncle’s house with automatic weapons fire. One of the bullets hit Damion Lucas in the chest and killed him. His murder has never been prosecuted even though numerous people believe they know who did it. Richard Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—told the FBI about a discussion of the murder by a dope gang that was responsible.

One of the fundamentals of criminal investigation is the need for speed. That is, get on the case while it’s fresh, while memories are vivid and clear. Being “hot on the trail” has long meant being close to capturing or catching a target of prey.

Detroit Police homicide detectives are seasoned hands at getting hot on the trail of murder investigations because they have so many of them. They know time is important.

The murder of 13-year old Damion Lucas on April 29, 1985 was one of 514 homicides in Detroit that year. Sadly, that was a good year, murder-wise, for a city once known as the Motor City and now derided in many quarters as the Murder City.

After Damion Lucas was killed in a drive-by shooting at his uncle’s northwest Detroit home, Detroit homicide dicks did what they’ve always done. They brought witnesses “downtown” to the dingy fifth floor offices of the Homicide section for interviews. The detectives asked questions. They took statements. They canvassed the neighborhood for more witnesses. Then they ignored key tips and tried to make a case against an innocent man.

As explained in the previous blog post Damion Lucas and his younger brother Frankie were orphans living with their uncle, Leon Lucas—a small time heroin dealer and con man. Leon Lucas had a reputation for skill at creating “mixed jive”, a heroin concoction. Lucas told me in a 1988 interview that Johnny Curry, a major dope dealer on the East side with important political connections, hired him to whip up mixed jive the Curry gang could sell. An illegal business relationship developed. Curry was the head of an operation that included his brothers, Leo and Rudell Curry.

Leon Lucas had a cousin, Robert Walton, who was also a hustler. In early 1985 the police raided Leon Lucas’ dope operation and confiscated his drugs and his money. He had the dope on consignment from the Currys, so he found himself owing the Currys money. Meanwhile, Robert Walton had convinced the Currys he had connections to help secure accommodations in Las Vegas for the April, 1985 prize fight between Marvin Hagler and Detroit’s Tommy Hearns. They paid him to handle it. When the Currys got to Las Vegas, they discovered the hotel accommodations Walton had “arranged” didn’t exist. They came home angry at being conned. And they were angry that Leon Lucas owed them money.

Some members of the Curry organization decided to teach Leon Lucas and Robert Walton a lesson. The result was shots were fired into a car at Robert Walton’s home and into the house itself at Leon Lucas’ residence. Damion Lucas was killed in the fusillade “lesson.”

“I automatically knew it was the Currys,” Leon Lucas told me in an interview in 1988. He says he told that to Detroit Police Homicide detectives. His cousin, Robert Walton, told them the same thing.

Yet, the police set their sights on another man named LeKeas Davis. He and Leon Lucas had had a noisy argument the week before Damion Lucas was killed. LeKeas Davis threatened to kill Leon Lucas and said it loud enough that neighbors could hear what he said.

When detectives interviewed the neighbors of Leon Lucas they told them about the dispute between Davis and Lucas.

They also told the police the shooters were driving a white car. LaKeas Davis drove a white Ford Escort.

Davis had other problems, too. A witness picked him out of a lineup. And his friends were vague about whether he was with them at the time of the fatal shooting.

LaKeas Davis told the police he was innocent. Leon Lucas told detectives he and Davis had patched up their differences. It didn’t matter. The police focused their homicide investigation on Davis in the Damion Lucas murder. They apparently did nothing with the information from 
Leon Lucas and Robert Walton, the two intended targets of the drive-by shooting who said they believed it was the work of Leo Curry and Wyman Jenkins, two members of the Curry Brothers drug gang. Lucas said Leo Curry and Wyman Jenkins called the morning of the fatal shooting and made threats that his house would be shot up because he owed them money for the dope the police had seized.

And Leon Lucas told the police one more thing—something that may have influenced how the investigation was handled. He said Johnny Curry was engaged to Cathy Volsan, the favorite niece of the late Coleman Young, then the powerful mayor of the City of Detroit. In the days and weeks that followed the Detroit Police focused all of their investigative attention on making a murder case against LaKeas Davis.

Several days later, Richard Wershe, Jr., then working as a confidential informant for the FBI, overheard a discussion of the murder among the Curry gang and he reported what he heard to FBI Special Agent Herman Groman. His tip would take on urgent significance when Groman began to review the transcripts of a court-authorized wiretap that had just been installed on the phone line of Johnny Curry.

More on that in the next blog post.

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