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  • The tragic death of American actor Michael K. Williams in 2021 highlights the dangers of buying street drugs like heroin, which are frequently laced with the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.

    How Micheal K. Williams Died

    On September 6, 2021, Williams, aged 54, was found dead in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment.

    The medical examiner’s office ruled that Williams’ death was an accidental overdose/drug intoxication from a mix of fentanyl, parafluorofentanyl, heroin, and cocaine. 

    Four men were arrested in connection with the overdose, accused by NYPD officers of selling the heroin (laced with fentanyl/parafluorofentanyl) that had claimed William’s life.

    The men included Hector Robles, Luis Cruz and Carlos Macci, as well as Irvin Cartagena who was arrested in Puerto Rico and transported to New York for trial. 

    Arrested for narcotics conspiracy, the men were caught on surveillance video making the exchange with Williams, and reportedly continued to sell their lethal mixture even after hearing reports that Williams had overdosed and died.

    About Michael K. Williams

    Michael K. Williams was born on November 22, 1966 in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York City. He was raised in the Vanderveer Projects by his mother, who was from the Bahamas, and his father, who hailed from Greeleyville, South Carolina.

    Early Career

    William’s early successes include background dancing, modeling, and choreographing “100% Pure Love” by Crystal Walters. But it wasn’t until Tupac Shakur spotted a polaroid photo of Williams and his signature facial scar that he began acting, starting with the 1996 film Bullet.

    This scar came from a razor blade wound Williams received during a stick-up on his 25th birthday. But its uniqueness led Williams to a wide variety of different roles as his career rapidly developed in the 2000s and 2010s.

    Notable Roles

    With exceptions, Williams gravitated towards intensely dramatic and memorable TV and film roles. Among his long list of performances, some that stand out include:

    • Omar Little in The Wire (2002 – 2008)
    • Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire (2010 – 2014)
    • Robert in 12 Years A Slave (2013)
    • Tariq Khalil in Inherent Vice (2014)
    • Jack Gee in Bessie (2015)
    • Freddy Knight in The Night Of (2016)
    • Leonard Pine in Hap & Leonard (2016 – 2018)
    • Ken Jones in When We Rise (2017)
    • Bobby McCray in When They See Us (2019)
    • Montrose Freeman in Lovecraft Country (2020)
    The Wire

    Williams’ portrayal of Omar Little was especially noteworthy and was publicly praised by President Barack Obama and earned him a 2007 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series.

    Williams was also a five-time nominee for Primetime Emmy Awards for his roles in Bessie, When They See Us, The Night Of, and Lovecraft Country.

    Michael K. Williams’ History Of Substance Abuse & Rehab

    By age 19 Williams was known to struggle with substance abuse, for which he received intermittent treatment before his breakthrough into acting.

    But stardom also presented temptation, and while portraying Omar Little on The Wire, Williams took on the character’s name and persona in his day-to-day life. This method acting approach also found Williams using cannabis and then cocaine in 2004, for which he received counseling and other treatment services.

    Williams spoke publicly about his history with substance abuse and his daily battle with addiction

    In one interview from 2012, he stated that his openness on the subject was intended to help others. In his words, “God saved me for a purpose. So, I decided to get clean and then come clean. I’m hoping I can reach that one person.” 

    Williams & The Opioid Crisis

    As U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York said in a statement on William’s death, “This is a public health crisis 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.”

    Indeed, even those with a long history of drug abuse are at increasing risk as drug trafficking organizations turn to excessively potent, easy-to-transport synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Opioids that can be lethal in a dose as small as a few grains of salt.

    The only safe solution is to deal with the problem of addiction directly, breaking the cycle and building a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. And you don’t have to do it alone.

    Recovery Is Possible

    Recovery is possible from opioid use disorder with the help of compassionate professionals, loved ones, and family members. 

    To learn how we help individuals and families overcome the dangers of opioid addiction, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on February 14, 2023
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