The Detroit Drug Wars (Part 2)


Coleman A. Young was Detroit’s first ever black Mayor and served five terms in office. While in the first half of Young’s two decades in the Mayor’s office, the diminutive, yet extremely charismatic grassroots politician was celebrated. In contrast, the final half of his time on top was plagued by increasing violence on the city’s streets and constant speculation of wrongdoing.

Heavily investigated by the FBI, IRS and DEA for a variety of alleged illegal activity Young was never charged with a single crime, leaving office in 1993 with a complex legacy plagued with speculation about his ties to, among other things, the local underworld Specifically, rumors abounded for years related Young’s connection to the area’s drug industry. It started in the 1970s with investigations by multiple government agencies regarding narcotics activity possibly being conducted out of his family’s restaurant, Young’s BBQ, and concluded as he left office with rampant accusations of corruption and convictions of several members of his inner-circle for running a police-sponsored protection racket for drug dealers both in-state and out.

Many of Young’s problems latter in his Mayoral tenure could be traced directly back to the soft spot he held in his heart for his niece, Cathy, a drug-addicted street corner diva with a penchant for associating with some of the city’s most dangerous and high-profile felons. The daughter of Young’s sister Juanita and his close friend Willie Volsan, a longtime alleged associate of a number of area drug kingpins, Cathy was the apple of her uncle’s eye and he spoiled her. He also watched her back intently.

During court proceedings in the 1990s, it would come out that Young personally authorized around the clock private security for Cathy provided by a special service unit of the Detroit Police Department. Orders to the unit were expressly not to disrupt the activities of the Cathy’s criminal associates, but to merely make certain if any violence erupted in her presence that it be thwarted and she be shuttled to safety immediately. The top secret security detail was on duty from 1985, when the Mayor’s niece married Johnny Curry, through 1988 when she was conducting an affair and sharing living quarters with her husband’s right hand man, White Boy Rick Wershe.

Through the years, Cathy was a fixture at the Mayor’s residence, the Manoogian Mansion and through her uncle was introduced to some very powerful people. One of these people was then Detroit Police Commander Gil Hill, whom she became very close to. Some federal investigators claim too close.

Besides holding several top positions within the DPD, Hill gained minor Hollywood celebrity in 1984 when he appeared in the smash film Beverly Hills Cop as star Eddie Murphy’s superior officer on the Detroit Police force. In 1989, he would be elected as Detroit City Council President and eventually stage an unsuccessful Mayoral campaign in 1996. Between his brush with movie fame and his foray into local politics, however, Hill was investigated by the FBI for reputed connections to none other than Cathy’s husband, Johnny Curry.

Cathy testified under oath in 1992 that Hill tipped her and Curry off in 1986 about their home telephone being bugged by federal surveillance experts. Later that year, a Detroit News article reported an on-going investigation into Hill’s possible role in leaking information and taking a payoff from Curry to impede progress in the case of a gangland homicide that was allegedly pointing in the direction of Curry and his crew.

The homicide was that of 13-year old Damion Lucas, an innocent bystander struck by a bullet in a drive-by shooting aimed at his uncle, a rival Curry drug dealer, on April 29 1985. Lucas’ uncle had allegedly screwed the Curry brothers on hotel reservations in Las Vegas for the Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns fight the gang had attended fight weeks earlier. According to Curry him and Cathy met with Hill in his office the day after the Lucas murder and were informed that a member of Curry’s crew was the top suspect in the crime. Hill then allegedly told them, “You have nothing to worry about,” and according to Curry, accepted a bribe of $10,000 in cash to keep him and his inner-circle out of the investigation. Although he admits to speaking with Cathy on the phone the day after the Lucas homicide, he denies disrupting the investigation related to the murder and taking any money to help shield Curry from harm.

The run for Johnny and Leonard Curry atop the city’s drug world came to an end in the spring of 1987, when the government indicted the Curry brothers and 18 of their foot soldiers in a racketeering case, with charges of mass narcotics trafficking and tax evasion dating back close to a decade. Cathy wasn’t arrested, but named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, which mapped out her husband’s airtight control of numerous Eastside drug houses and increase in power and territory acquisition after the incarceration of Butch Jones and Le Roy Buttrum. The following winter, the Curry and all of their underlings pled guilty, with Johnny and Leo each getting hit with 20-year sentences, which they served a little more than half of.


  1. Yall need to do a story on the twins from the eastside of Detroit. They were the men back in the 80’s. If you was getting money back then, you knew about the twins. BJ chambers kept it real in his book and told you how he really got on in the game. It wasn’t from Holloway, it was from Don “Twin Money” And that’s real talk…


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