Why you should care
Because killers walk among us.
Nate Craft, aka Boone, slid the door to the van open and let loose with a Mac-11, but as the gun jammed and Boone cursed his luck, the white Jeep got away. He’d been planning this assassination for two weeks, tracking his target, making notes of his movements and studying his routine. If a guy on his hit list had the same routine for two days running, Boone normally got him on the third. Mishaps notwithstanding, Boone was known for getting his man — a straight killer who prided himself on not getting caught.
Cocaine was flooding the inner cites, rival dealers were painting the urban terrain red with military-style assault rifles and everyone in the streets was claiming to be the “baddest of the bad.” Boone, the Best Friends murder-for-hire gang’s No. 1 gunslinger, solidified his legacy in the chronicles of gangster lore by targeting individuals who’d been marked for death as a professional assassin. To Boone it was always business, never personal. He’s admitted to being a part of 30 murders and was so proficient that he became the go-to assassin for not only drug lords but also cops, taking contracts from anyone who could afford his asking price and pay his fee.
He was seen as more monster than man, almost like a real-life character from a horror movie or comic book.
“In the ’80s, I was a hit man that worked for many different drug lords and kingpins. Some that weren’t even in this country,” Boone says. He was hired to “do hits” with payment upward of $50,000 a pop. “I was looking to gain anything that was $50,000 and up. C’mon with it. What you want? The guy’s head? You want his arm, you want his private parts?”
A ruthless killer and muscle-for-hire who had no regard for human life, Boone was one of the most feared men in Detroit. Newspapers called his gang the “enemies of organized society in Detroit,” and prosecutors said their reign of terror kept the entire city in constant fear. By the end of the 1980s, Boone’s reputation was as formidable as any the city’s storied underworld had ever witnessed.
“His mercenary mentality served him well. His military training made him a master at his craft,” Scott Burnstein, author of The Detroit True Crime Chronicles: Tales of Murder and Mayhem in the Motor City, says. In turn, he was seen by many — both on the street and among authorities — “as more monster than man, almost like a real-life character from a horror movie or comic book,” Burnstein adds. Boone was the criminal other criminals feared: If they saw him coming, it was time to go the other way.
But Boone did a Sammy the Bull, destroying his criminal street cred by testifying against other members of the Best Friends gang in exchange for immunity for the murders he committed. He ended up doing only 17 years in prison for his killing spree (30 drug-related homicides). With federal prosecutors hellbent on prosecuting Best Friends, an organization they claimed was responsible for more than 80 murders and thousands of kilos of cocaine hitting the streets, they were willing to give Boone a sweetheart deal.
“Boone got the deal he got because he could give the government something they wanted very badly,” Burnstein says. The gang had brought 1920s-style carnage and outright mayhem again to the streets of Detroit — the likes of which it hadn’t seen since Prohibition. So “the feds decided they could live with themselves if they made a deal with one devil to eliminate another 25.”
To Boone it wasn’t really snitching because other members of the gang had already tried to kill him. Ratting them out was simply payback, allowing him to get his revenge on former comrades who’d turned on him and illustrating the dog-eat-dog world of crime, where rules change according to the variable in play. Getting back at someone was the only sure thing. Boone was eventually released from the Witsec Unit, a special prison within a prison housing federal informants. He now resides back on the East Side of Detroit under his real name — feds refused to put him in the Witness Protection Program.
Fearing for his life at first, Boone’s now settled into a comfortable existence. He faced threats when he first moved back to Detroit, but he let people know that he wasn’t going anywhere, even doing interviews and appearing in documentaries. But he does lament that there aren’t any winners in his former vocation, only losers. “There is no such thing as retirement in the drug game — it’s prison, death or cripple,” Boone says, while his legacy and horrific crimes continue to impact his victims’ families and friends.