The Detroit Drug Wars (Part 1)


Following Wonderful Wayne’s high-profile homicide – an audacious killing that was just shortly preceded by the brazen murder of a Detroit narcotics officer by YBI member Carey Goins a few months prior –, the government turned the heat up on the gang and pushed its investigation into overdrive. The first nail in the coffin was a multi-count, 41-person federal racketeering indictment levied on December 8, 1982 that ensnared the entire hierarchy of YBI, including Butch Jones, Raymond Peoples, Seal Murray and Kurt McGurk. At the press conference announcing the high-profile bust, the DEA said the gang was making close to 8 million dollars a week pushing heroin. A raid of Murray’s luxury penthouse apartment on the top floor of the Jeffersonian downtown discovered nearly a million dollars in cash. One of the young men arrested was wearing $100,000 dollars-worth of diamond-encrusted jewelry. It was soon revealed that a DEA undercover agent had infiltrated the operations of Murray and his right-hand man, Daryl “Dynamite D” Young as early as 1981 and the information gleaned from that part of the investigation put things over the edge in the government’s favor.

Jones, who by that time was 28 years old, didn’t take the indictment lying down. With word of the upcoming bust reaching him by Thanksgiving, Butch scooped up his wife, Portia, who would also end up being charged in the case and his two kids and re-located to a mansion he had recently bought in Arizona. Encouraging his attorney Richard Lustig to make a deal with prosecutors, Jones turned himself into federal custody on March 22 1983, agreeing to plead guilty as being head of a continuing criminal enterprise in exchange for a sentence of 12 years in prison. Most of Jones’ underlings followed suit with their boss’ inclination and pled guilty to the charges and however two of his Wrecking Crew enforcers, Karl “Fat Pratt” Gatlin and Kevin “Lughead” Wilson, couldn’t take the heat of the bust and both turned witness for the government.

The crushing legal assault on YBI, unfortunately, did little to temper the violence the gang exhibited and although it shook the organization to the core there were still enough remnants to keep things active within the ranks for another five years. Immediately following the indictment and subsequent guilty pleas, further friction developed between Butch and Baby Ray. With Butch locked up and Peoples out on bail awaiting sentencing, the pair are alleged to have bumped heads over how the gang would be governed and previous earning distributed with the entire original administration either currently or soon to be behind bars. This feverish dispute was complicated by the fact that Baby Ray’s brothers, Timothy “Timmy Slim” Peoples and Nathaniel “Nate the Great” Peoples, were both key members of Butch’s crew. Timmy Slim was viewed as Butch’s top emissary, often acting as Jones’ eyes and ears on the streets.

According to federal documents, Butch wanted to tidy some things up within the gang before everyone turned themselves in to start serving their prison time. Most of the tidying, the documents say, related to Jones wanted to eliminate certain members of Baby Ray’s inner-circle who were unscathed by the recent bust. On May 12, 1983, Moe Heart Gibbs, one of Butch’s closest confidants and his first cousin and Kurt McGurk, whose nickname derived from an obscure one-time comic strip character from the early-1970 and who was free on bond at the time resulting from the December 1982 indictment, ambushed Joseph “Wamp” Brown, Gregory “Special K” Kendricks, two of Peoples’ top henchmen, on separate street corners in the same afternoon. Brown was killed when McGurk shot him on the corner of Concord and Benson, but Kendricks survived his attack on the corner of Beaubian and Erskine. Right before he died, Wamp told police that “Kurt McGurk and Mohawk (another alleged nickname of Gibbs) shot me”, leading the judge in his drug case to revoke both of their bonds and issue arrest warrants.

Gibbs, also indicted in the 1982 case, turned himself in and was eventually acquitted of the charges. Not surprisingly, McGurk, described by street informants as a “blood thirsty psychopath,” who had been doing hits for the gang since he was 15 years old, went underground. While at large, he made front page headlines twice; first, in September for taking aim at a pair of uniformed police officers with a sawed off shot gun in the midst of fleeing on a foot from an alley on Richton and Cortland on Detroit’s near Northwest side and then shortly thereafter by allegedly sending a letter containing a death threat to Gil Hill, the Detroit Police Department Chief of Homicide.

A citywide manhunt for Kurt McGurk ensued, with the 19-year old hitman being declared Public Enemy No. 1 by the Wayne County Sherriff’s office. He was finally apprehended in November and pled guilty to the Brown murder following a high-speed chase that took police from Pontiac onto I-75 before finally ending on the lawn of the D’arcy-McManus & Masius advertising agency on Woodward in Bloomfield Township.

The coming years didn’t bring peace or stability to the then-already iconic criminal empire. Further housecleaning was deemed necessary and through the first half of 1984 there were six gangland homicides attributed to backbiting between the gang’s quickly emerging two factions. Before the end of the year there were three more. Looking to drive a stake right through the heart of Baby Ray’s powerbase, Butch’s crew killed Norman “Snead” Johnson, a Peoples associate on February 17 and then Carl Garrett, his one-time bodyguard and driver, on July 17, gunned down as he rode a moped at the intersection of 6 Mile Road and Schaeffer.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here