Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Murder of Damion Lucas

In the spring of 1985 a young Detroit boy named Damion Lucas was killed in a fusillade of bullets meant as a “message” for his uncle. Damion's unintended murder was the work of members of Detroit’s Currry drug dealing organization. Richard Wershe, Jr. was working as a confidential FBI informant within the Curry organization when the murder occurred. He told the FBI the Curry group was responsible for the Damion Lucas murder. The life of Richard Wershe, Jr. and the trajectory of Detroit city politics would never be the same. 

Home alone. It was the evening of April 29, 1985. Thirteen-year old Damion Lucas and his little brother, 11-year old Frankie Lucas, also known as Little Robert, were by themselves watching TV in their uncle’s home in the 19-thousand block of Marlowe St. on Detroit’s north side. 

The boys had each other but not much more. They were orphaned in 1984 when their mother died. Since her passing they had been wards of their uncle, Leon Lucas.

Suddenly, without warning, shots rang out, at least 20 of them. Bullets from automatic weapons riddled the front of their uncle’s house. The boys ran for the basement. They could hide there. Maybe they’d be safe. They didn’t make it.

Damion said, “Little Robert, I’m shot,” Frankie later told his uncle amid a torrent of tears. Frankie’s big brother had collapsed in front of the kitchen stove. Frankie tried to lift him. He was too heavy.

This being Detroit, little Frankie Lucas knew what to do. His voice filled with fear Frankie called 911:

“Could you send the police to 19965 Marlowe? Somebody just shot at my house. Please!”

The 911 operator, in a trained and experienced voice calmly asked him to calm down and give the address again.

Exasperated, Frankie Lucas repeated the address, and then wailed:

“My brother on the floor dyin’! Please!!”

One of the slugs from the fusillade of bullets had come through a wall and hit Damion Lucas in the chest. In another part of the house a bullet had torn through a wall just above the bed of one of the boys. On the bed was a stuffed monkey named Curious George after a popular character featured in a series of children’s books and a kid’s TV show.

The 911 operator continued to elicit information from Frankie Lucas:

“Somebody just shot your brother?”

“Yes! I don’t know what to do! Please!”

The operator asked more questions and determined the shots had come into the house from outside. Then she asked about the boys’ parents.

“They’re gone,” Frankie cried out.

Next, the voice at the other end of the 911 call asked Frankie to give her the address again and the nearest cross street. Frankie told her they lived on Marlowe between Chippewa and Pembroke Avenues. It was on Detroit’s north side between the Lodge Freeway and 8 Mile Road, the street that was the northern city limit for Detroit.

Frankie quickly answered her question but remained focused on his dying brother:

Frankie: “Please tell them to hurry!”

911 Operator: “OK. As soon as they can they’ll be there. OK?”

Frankie: “He not movin’. Please!!”

911 Operator: “OK, OK, OK. They’re coming. Keep your doors locked until they get there.”

Frankie: “OK. He ain’t movin’! Please!!”

Frankie was practically shouting as he said this.

911 Operator: “OK, OK, don’t bother your brother. Don’t touch him. Just wait for the police and EMS.”

Frankie, his voice choked with tears and fear, ended the call with one more plea:

“Please hurry, please!!”

Damion Lucas was rushed to what was then called Mt. Carmel Hospital, a short ambulance ride from the house on Marlowe Street. Damion Lucas was DOA—dead on arrival.

Damion Lucas (Family photo)
In an interview I conducted in 1988 for WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in Detroit, Leon Lucas recalled talking with Frankie after the fatal shooting.

“Uncle Leon I tried to wake him up. He wouldn’t wake up no more,” Leon Lucas recalled Frankie telling him. “Then he bust out into tears.”

Significantly, minutes before the fatal shooting on Marlowe Street, someone had fired shots into a car parked in the driveway of Robert Walton, a relative of Leon Lucas and his nephews.

Leon Lucas was an admitted small-time heroin dealer and con man. One of his dubious skills was cutting heroin into “mixed jive.”

Leon Lucas and his cousin, Robert Walton, had apparently conned the Curry Brothers drug gang regarding accommodations in Las Vegas for the Marvin Hagler/Tommy Hearns prize fight in Las, Vegas a few weeks before the death of Damion Lucas. When I interviewed Lucas he was in prison on a fraud conviction.

Lucas lived on the North side. The Curry Brothers drug ring operated on the East side. How did he connect with the Currys? The common denominator, according to Lucas was Cathy Volsan, the attractive niece of then-Detroit mayor Coleman Young, now deceased. She was Johnny Curry’s fiancĂ©e and, according to Leon Lucas, he and Cathy were friends.

Lucas said one day Cathy called him to cut some heroin for Johnny and Leo Curry so they could sell it. Lucas cut they heroin as they requested, the street reviews were favorable and a drug dealing relationship developed. Lucas noted the Curry Brothers were getting their heroin from Willie Volsan, Cathy’s father and the brother-in-law of Mayor Young. The information about Willie Volsan being the source of the heroin came from Johnny Curry in a conversation with Leon Lucas.

As part of the illicit business relationship, Leon Lucas started selling heroin for the Currys on consignment. All went well until he lost a batch of heroin and his stash of cash in a police drug raid. Lucas was now indebted to the Currys for the dope and the money the police confiscated.

In the Channel 7 interview I had with Leon Lucas he said the morning of the day Damion died he received a threatening phone call from Leo Curry and an associate named Wyman Jenkins.

“They called and said, ‘We want our money and, you know, we don’t wanna hear no more shit about you giving us our money,” Lucas recalled them saying. He told Curry and Jenkins he didn’t have the money to pay them back. There was an ominous warning on the other end of the line.

“He said, ‘Yeah, well there’ll be some niggas out to your house tonight and then you’ll wish you had gave it to me.’”

In the murder investigation that followed the shooting of Damion Lucas, Leon Lucas and his cousin Robert Walton told the police about the dispute with the Curry gang and the threats the day of the murder. Yet, the police investigation immediately focused on someone else. Eventually the signs would point to obstruction of justice,  a cover-up within the Detroit Police Department.

Those signs included evidence from an FBI wiretap on Johnny Curry’s telephone and subsequent information from Richard Wershe, Jr. about the Curry group’s involvement in the murder of Damion Lucas.

As subsequent blog posts will show, Rick Wershe’s informant information about the Damion Lucas murder appears to be a key element in Rick’s continued imprisonment.

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