The Damion Lucas Murder: Gil Hill’s Legacy Tied To Questionable Handling Of Notorious Detroit Drug-World Homicide Probe

A disturbing part of recently-deceased Motown political figure Gil Hill’s legacy is the Detroit Police Department’s controversial investigation into the still-unsolved slaying of 13-year old Damion Lucas in a drive-by shooting targeting his uncle, a local drug dealer, back in the spring of 1985. One-time Detroit City Council President and Mayoral candidate Gill Hill died earlier this week from lung disease at 84. He was alleged to have accepted a payoff to thwart the search for Lucas’ killer on behalf of then-drug lord Johnny (Little Man) Curry, at that time married to Mayor Coleman Young’s niece.

Hill always steadfastly denied these claims as well as an other accusations of improper conduct or any impeding of the inquiry in the Lucas case. The FBI aggressively pursued tips that Hill intentionally hampered investigators in their probe of Lucas’ murder in return for cash, yet never brought any charges. In interviews with the press in the 1990s, Hill called the investigation into his role in any form of a cover up a witch hunt.

Damion Lucas was accidentally killed on the evening of April 29, 1985, as a barrage of automatic-weapon fire blasted through the front window of a home located on Marlowe Street in the Northwest section of Detroit. The attack was intended for Leon Lucas, Damion’s uncle and legal guardian, who wasn’t present when the drive-by occurred and was in the midst of a gangland feud with Johnny Curry.

Leon Lucas was a drug-dealing associate of Curry’s and a street “mixologist,” known for being an expert at mixing or cutting narcotics. Curry and Lucas fell out over money and cocaine Lucas was responsible for that were confiscated in a police raid earlier that year and his subsequent attempt to make good with Curry by promising him hotel reservations and tickets to the April 15, 1985 championship boxing match between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Detroit-native Tommy (The Hitman) Hearns in Las Vegas which never materialized. According to sources on the street and in law enforcement, an embarrassed and livid Curry ordered a revenge hit on Lucas, dispatching several members of his gang to launch the assault.

Blogger and former Motor City television investigative reporter Vince Wade has reported extensively on the Damion Lucas case dating back to his days pounding the pavement as a part of the Detroit media in the 1980s and through today on his Informant America blog site (see here). Wade interviewed an imprisoned Lucas (fraud conviction) in the years following his nephew’s senseless murder and he told Wade of a threatening phone call he received the morning of April 29 from Leo (Big Man) Curry, Little Man’s twin brother and second-in-command and Wyman (Wild Wymie) Jenkins, the Curry gang’s top enforcer, telling him if he didn’t pay back what he owed immediately they would be sending a hit team to his house that night.

Shortly thereafter, Lucas’ cousin and right-hand man Robert Walton had his car shot up in his driveway. That night, the Curry gang made good on its promise and shot up his house, accidentally leaving his nephew a tragic casualty of the dispute.

Almost immediately, the FBI began receiving tips from Curry’s inner circle that Little Man had ordered the drive-by shooting that killed Damion Lucas. Then-Curry protégé Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe, only 15 and in reality a paid federal mole sent into the Curry gang to provide the government intelligence in the ethically-suspect and morally-challenged Operation Gem (Wershe’s code name within law enforcement), told his FBI handlers that Little Man had put out the hit on Leon Lucas and held a conclave of his subordinates in his basement in the wake of Lucas’ nephew getting caught in the crosshairs and told everyone to “lay low.”

Wershe, still in prison today based on a 1987 arrest for being caught with cocaine at a traffic stop in front of his grandmother’s house at just 17 years old, was present with Little Man Curry in a car in the days after Damion Lucas was slain where according to Wershe, Curry was on a cell phone with Gil Hill, who at that point in time was the head of the Detroit Police Department’s Homicide Division, and discussed a payoff to get the investigation into the Lucas murder turned away from the Curry gang.

“Everything’s going to be alright, I’ve got the head of homicide on our team,” said Curry to Wershe once hanging up with Hill. “Don’t worry about nothing, he (Hill) is going to take care of it for us.”

Also alleged to be in the car that day almost 31 years ago was Curry’s beautiful wife, Cathy Volsan, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young’s favorite niece. Volsan, according to those in her family, had been tight with Hill since her youth and called him “Uncle Gil.” The FBI traced a phone call from Curry to Hill in the hours after Lucas was killed. Curry admitted to the Detroit News in a 1992 interview from a prison cell in Texas that he visited Hill in his office at DPD headquarters the day following Lucas’ murder and told him he wasn’t involved in the crime and Hill responded by telling him that as long as he treated the Mayor’s niece properly he “has friends” in the DPD.

Per a number of sources, Hill received a payoff ranging anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000 from Curry on a boat docked at the Detroit Yacht Club in early May 1985. Despite Leon Lucas himself telling police that the Curry gang was responsible for the drive-by at his house (as reported by Vince Wade here), the DPD centered its’ murder inquiry on another Lucas rival, LeKeas Davis. Lucas told Wadethat he and Davis had settled their differences by when the attack that killed his nephew occurred. Nonetheless, Davis was charged with the crime. The charges would be dropped however prior to any trial.

The Curry Brothers circa 2013

The Curry Brothers circa 2013

Little Man Curry was intercepted on a federal wiretap discussing his “contacts” in the police department and his worry that Wild Wymie Jenkins was being labeled the No. 1 suspect in the Damion Lucas murder.  During his 1992 interview with the Detroit News, he admitted to being told by Hill that Jenkins was being “looked at” as the shooter.

Wade revealed in a 2015 blog post (see here) that his research showed another Curry underling, Kevin (Weasel) Colbert, informing authorities that Little Man marked Leon Lucas for death and had his house shot up. Colbert debriefed for the FBI as part of a plea agreement in 1988, naming fellow Curry gang henchmen Dwayne (Wack) Cooper and Walter (The Great Waldo) Owens as the triggermen.

The entire Curry gang enterprise came crashing down to the ground via a 1987 federal drug indictment. Everybody pled guilty. Curry’s been free since 2000

Hill gained a national profile by appearing as Eddie Murphy’s perpetually-frustrated boss in the Beverly Hills Cop movie trilogy. He was dogged by questions regarding his office’s handling of the Damion Lucas homicide inquiry during his unsuccessful Detroit Mayoral bid in 2001. Those close to Hill, say he always blamed the rumors of the payoff in the Lucas probe and specifically White Boy Rick Wershe, for costing him the election. Many familiar with the 46-year old Wershe’s plight point to the alleged Hill vendetta as a primary reason for his continued incarceration – Wershe is the longest-serving non-violent offender in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

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