A Public Service of Santa Fe Community College
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

4 men arrested in the overdose death of 'The Wire' actor Michael K. Williams

Michael K. Williams, seen March 2012 in Miami. Federal authorities have arrested four men in connection with his death from a drug overdose.
Rodrigo Varela
Getty Images
Michael K. Williams, seen March 2012 in Miami. Federal authorities have arrested four men in connection with his death from a drug overdose.

Federal prosecutors have charged four men in the death of actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his role as a gay robber of drug dealers in the TV series "The Wire." In September, the 54-year-old's body was found in his Manhattan apartment. The medical examiner ruled that his death was caused by "acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin and cocaine."

New York police officers arrested the men, who they say were part of a Brooklyn drug trafficking crew, for allegedly selling Williams the lethal dose. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams says a surveillance video captured a hand-to-hand drug transaction between Williams and Irvin Cartagena one day before the death. According to a federal complaint, the 39-year-old suspect had sold drugs to undercover informants for months prior to Williams' death. Cartagena was arrested in Puerto Rico and charged with a narcotics conspiracy, a federal crime.

Also expected to appear in federal court are Hector Robles, 57, Luis Cruz, 56, and Carlos Macci, 70. According to the criminal complaint, all of them "continued to sell fentanyl-laced heroin in broad daylight" outside apartment buildings in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, "despite knowing Williams died after being sold the product."

"This is a public health crisis," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. "And it has to stop. Deadly opioids like fentanyl and heroin don't care about who you are or what you've accomplished. They just feed addiction and lead to tragedy."

Williams, raised in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, was best known for his role as Omar Little on The Wire, HBO's hit series in the 2000's. The show depicted the underworld of drugs and crime in Baltimore. His character, an openly gay Black man in that under world, was seen as groundbreaking. Williams later appeared in the series Boardwalk Empire, The Night Of and Lovecraft Country. Over his career, he earned five Emmy nominations. Williams was open about his personal struggles with drug addiction.

After his death, his Wire co-stars, and many others, paid tribute to him on social media. "The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss," tweeted Wendell Pierce, who played Detective William "Bunk" Moreland. "An immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition portraying the lives of those whose humanity is seldom elevated until he sings their truth."

Isiah Whitlock Jr., who played crooked politician Clay Davis on The Wire, tweeted that Williams was "One of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart. An amazing actor and soul."

And David Simon, who created the show and Williams' character, wrote on Twitter that he was "Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said. Michael was a fine man and a rare talent and on our journey together he always deserved the best words. And today those words won't come."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.