Army veteran in one-man war with heroin dealers on the streets of Detroit

A US Army veteran is waging a one-man war against drug dealers after buying a house in Detroit, trying to clean up his community while simultaneously flipping a house.

At 32 years of age, Mr. Adams (who has asked that his full name be withheld for safety reasons) served his country as a Cavalry Scout from 2003 to 2007, with at least one deployment under his belt by the time he left the military.

After his time in service, Adams worked in the entertainment industry on the west coast for over a decade before deciding on a new project- purchasing homes in Detroit and renovating them for sale.

“I have always wanted to buy properties in Detroit and start rehabbing,” Adams told Popular Military.

Once a vibrant, prosperous city that was the home of the American automobile industry, Detroit has since become a former shell of itself- a landscape of abandoned houses, crime-ridden streets and levels of urban decay that more often resembles a war zone rather than an American metropolis. At its peak in 1950, Detroit had over 1,850,000 residents. By 2016, however, the population had declined to around 672,795.

However, Adams only viewed this as a worthy challenge. Purchasing a property (which he had never seen) directly from the city, Adams bid a temporary farewell to his wife and made his way to Motor City in March of 2017, with hopes of flipping the house in a timely fashion.

When he arrived, there was much work to be done and the home essentially had to be rebuilt from the ground up.

“From 10,000lbs of concrete into the ground for new supports, all new main beams, reframed almost every wall, new windows, doors, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, siding, porches and the roof,” he said, listing off only a few renovations he has completed so far. “I have done 90% of it myself and I am finally bearing completion.”

Referring to the refurbishing project as a “nightmare that never ends,” Adams soon realized he had a much bigger problem than simply remodeling a house: his entire neighborhood was overrun with drug dealers.

“From the minute I started work on the house, I would literally see hundreds of drug deals happening daily on the corner,” he said. “Initially, I would call narcotics directly, but they were never interested in sellers…90% of the times that I called 911 or narcotics, no one would ever show up.”

Adams quickly began to look into the local structuring of the beleaguered Detroit Police Department, taking note of who was responsible for what area and who would be the best person to contact with information.

“Detroit has what is known as ‘community policing’,” he said. “There is an officer that is known as a Neighborhood Patrol Officer or NPO. They are supposed to spend their entire shift in that specific neighborhood dealing with a variety of things.”

Getting in touch with the local NPO, Adams began to funnel information to the department, providing video and photos. Once they started to take him seriously, he began obtaining information, locations and phone numbers of local drug dealers, turning them over the authorities.

By this point in time, Adams was put in touch with a night shift officer, which led to more results.

“Once I had my nighttime guy, the fun really started. because I would get instant results,” he said. “I would get a picture, video, or sometimes just a good description and within 20 minutes, they were arrested.”

However, Adams soon found himself on the receiving end of local criminal enterprise, with multiple instances of people trying to enter his house and kill him.

“I woke up to someone walking down the stairs,” he said. “I grabbed my axe -I didn’t have guns at the time- and started yelling at him to bring it on. He ran back up the stairs, so I started banging on the walls and yelling for him to get the fuck back down here.”

The police arrived five minutes later, sweeping the house and finding nothing but a brick in a tube sock.

Adams then realized that he needed some better equipment if he was going to continue cleaning up the streets.

“That’s when I stepped up my game with guns and body armor,” he recalled. “I would approach them directly, phone held in hand, recording their transactions. They would huff and puff, but always flee…Within a few days, we had most of them in jail.”

“That’s when the death threats started,” he said.

Adams then experienced a second home invasion, once again hearing an intruder make his way down the stairs.

“That time, I was armed,” he said, showing a hole in the wall from the shot fired from his shotgun. “Sadly, I missed- eight inches too far to the left.”

Courtesy photo

Soon, dealers were waiting outside of his house, prompting Adams to reinforce his bedroom and sleep in body armor.

“Spent a few weeks sleeping in [armor],” he said. “The way the law is written here, you can’t shoot anyone outside your house, even if they are threatening you. So on the occasions where they would be camping out, I’d walk right out the front door and fire off a few rounds at their tires…They would peel away yelling their threats and showing their guns.”

Michigan is classified as a “Stand Your Ground” state, meaning that the state law provides legal protection to people who use deadly force when then they “honestly and reasonably” believe they or another person are being threatened with death, severe injury or rape. As such, there’s no legal duty to retreat in those circumstances, be it at home or out in public.

“More than once,” he said, “The cops would show up afterward because someone had called about the crazy white boy in body armor, firing off guns.”

According to Adams, he soon found safety in numbers, including a fellow veteran who wanted to help him out.

“I linked up with another vet in the neighborhood and we’d provide overwatch for each other when the death threats would roll in,” he said. “He took up my mission in his part of the neighborhood.”

In addition, he had developed a reputation among the local police and residents.

“I know most every cop in the precinct, and my house is under ‘special attention’ status,” he said. “Basically, if I call 911 and give my address, there is a very swift and very strong response.”

“My wife despises what I am doing,” he said. “Not so much because of the risk, but because it distracts me from finishing the house and going back home for a few months.” There have been a few nights where I’ve told her ‘if you don’t hear from me every 5 minutes, call the police.’”

However, Adams remains dedicated to his personal mission, with no endgame in sight.

“This story never ends,” he said. “After I sell this house, I buy another one on another block and see that it is cleaned up as well. This started out as a one-man war; it’s really starting to turn into a movement. So many other people within this community are becoming much more proactive.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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