one knows exactly when, but in the early 1980s a new form of cocaine
came to town � cheap, smokable, mercilessly addictive � and practically
cracked the foundations of Flint.
its name, and within months its booming trade ushered in a wave
of violence: armed robberies, drive-by shootings, burglaries and
investigator estimated that two-thirds of Flint robberies during
the late 1980s were committed by crackheads.
of murders in the city rose from 32 in 1983 to an all-time high
of 61 by 1986. The total fell to 52 in 1987 and then to 44 in
1988. But in 1989, 57 people were murdered � the third-highest
total on record.
To many who
saw the carnage first hand, the 1980s were the Decade of Crack.
And nowhere was the devastation more brutal or more focused than
at a north Flint address in 1987.
On Feb. 4
of that year, the bungalow at 1010 E. Russell Ave. became the
site of the worst mass killing in the citys history.
Williams, a street-level crack dealer who used the house as a
base for his drug ring, was executed along with his mother and
four teenage friends, allegedly by an associate bent on revenge.
devastated the largely working-class neighborhood and helped brand
Flint as Cracktown, USA.
In the months
before he was killed, Williams, 21, ran a small to medium-sized
drug ring that competed with other drug gangs.
in flashy rings, a gold medallion and designer sweat suits, he
was known to tool around in a limousine like a street celebrity.
turf battles with other gangs sometimes led to violence, it was
politics within his own ranks that apparently led to Williams
Terry Head Man Morris, a gang lieutenant and enforcer
who was feuding with Williams over a series of recent incidents,
shot Williams in the head as he lay on a couch.
were Williams mother, Mary L. Williams, 44, along with Darryol
Humphrey, 20, Treasie Spicer, 18, Deaundric Collins, 18, and Andre
Adams, 17. Some were shot numerous times.
17, allegedly owed Williams for smoking up crack he was supposed
to be selling.
On the night
of the murders, Williams had lined up Morris and several other
operatives in a back bedroom of the bungalow and interrogated
them about a missing sweat suit, firing shots at their feet. Later,
a humiliated Morris shot Williams as he lay on the couch, then
systematically gunned down the other victims, police said.
on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a friend who said
Morris told him he did the killings, Morris was convicted several
months later in Genesee County Circuit Court. He was sentenced
to eight life prison terms.
social workers trace cracks arrival in Flint to 1983 or
1984. Its trade spawned turf battles among rival drug rings, and
drive-by shootings were a daily occurrence, police said.
typically were teenage males.
Detroit ran crack houses on Flints north side, hoping to
cash in on the higher crack prices here. Consequently, young men
from Detroit and elsewhere began showing up dead on the street
and in abandoned houses.
1980s also marked the emergence of organized street gangs in Flint.
And drugs were only part of their activity.
high-profile gangs in Los Angeles and New York, Flint gangs began
wearing colors and staking out neighborhoods as territory.
groups known as the D-Boys, P-Boys (or Project Boys), Six-Os,
Selby Hood and the South End Boys. Gangs often recruited their
mostly teenaged membership through coercion and intimidation and
put them through initiation rites. They often cruised the streets
better armed than the police; some crime scenes were littered
with shell casings.
But it was
the brutality of the crack-driven murders that often stunned hardened
cops, prosecutors and judges.
As the decade
ended, three young Flint men and a juvenile were charged and convicted
in the murder of a 19-year-old drug dealer who was tortured for
days with hot knives and other objects, then bludgeoned with a
concrete block after an assailant tried to hang him with a bedsheet.
testified that Lawrence White was killed over a missing bag of
crack and a missing handgun.
rate did not fall significantly until 1995, reaching a modern
low of 19 in 1997.
seen a decline in the drug-related homicides and drive-by shootings,
said Flint Officer Harlon Green, who worked in street enforcement
during the height of the crack boom.
85, 86 and 87, when we were dealing with Omar
Spearman doing a drive-by a day, it was mostly gangs and drugs.
is still a lot of street dealing, but its not half as bad
as it was in the 80s and early 90s, Green said.
I dont see the level of organization we had in the
80s and early 90s.
Many of the
players in the crack trade during the late 1980s and early 90s
have been convicted, killed or otherwise eliminated, police say.
whom a federal agent once described as the most feared man in
Flint, was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for the drug-related
murders of two people and operating a continuing criminal enterprise.
onset of laws boosting penalties for dealing crack, many peddlers
switched to powder cocaine. Powder cocaine never brought the violence
associated with the more intense and addictive high of crack,
when I was really young working narcotics, Id see the true
crackheads walking down the street. You dont see them much
scene in the neighborhood around E. Russell is different. Mary
Rodriguez leaned through her armor-guarded front door, gazed toward
the now-nondescript house across the street where Williams and
the five others died and struggled to describe even a condensed
version of the memory.
was just one of those awful times that something bad happened,
said Rodriguez, who asked that her real name not be used.
house of horrors looks clean and unremarkable, a fairly typical
home in a usually quiet neighborhood. A new apartment complex
is under construction to the north, literally touching the back
yards along the north side of E. Russell.
As it often
is these days, the house is vacant.
stays there very long, said Rodriguez. Some dont
know about the killings and, sometimes, they find out later on.
They should have tore it down. Nobody is going to stay there,
especially when they find out that thats the history of
of boarded-up homes dot the street, particularly near N. Saginaw
Street. But neighbors today are more likely to complain about
speeding cars than about crime and drug dealing.
Photo / Steve Jessmore
north Flint house sits vacant now.