Authorities were able to piece together the sale of the deadly dose to Mr. Williams, best known for his part on “The Wire,” thanks to security video, according to court documents.
Fentanyl-laced heroin sold to the actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his depiction of Omar Little in “The Wire,” was allegedly sold to him by a Brooklyn man on Wednesday.
A court complaint alleges that Irvin Cartagena and three others were part of a drug-trafficking gang that continued to sell the substance even after they knew it had murdered Mr. Williams – operating in broad daylight among apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
A security camera showed the sale of a deadly quantity to Mr. Williams in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on September 5, 2021, police said.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams called the situation “a public health disaster” in a statement announcing the charges. “And it has to end. Death-dealing narcotics like fentanyl and heroin don’t give a damn about your status or achievements.”
Michael K. Williams, 54, was discovered dead in his residence on September 6, according to authorities. The medical examiner determined that he died as a result of “acute intoxication caused by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin, and cocaine,” according to the report.
According to the complaint, the charges against the four men are the result of an investigation that began early last year, before Mr. Williams passed away. In addition to Mr. Cartagena, who was 39 at the time of his arrest were Hector Robles, 57; Luis Cruz, 56; and Carlos Macci, 70; all of whom were charged as well. According to the government, they are all from Brooklyn.
All four were charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. As part of the conspiracy, Mr. Cartagena is also accused of causing the death of Mr. Williams, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in New York.
No one could be reached for comment on Mr. Cartagena’s legal representation. He was apprehended in Puerto Rico and is scheduled to be taken before a judge the following day. Mr. Macci’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment. Requests for response from the media were not immediately returned by the attorneys for the other two individuals.
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a statement that the charges reflected the kind of thorough investigations that are conducted in cases “where criminals peddle narcotics and prey on the innocent, or where people die from illegal drugs” — a problem that has become particularly acute during the pandemic.
According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people have died in unprecedented numbers from drug overdoses across the United States while the coronavirus has wreaked havoc. In the opinion of health professionals, the rise in fatal overdoses is due to the convergence of a number of concerns, including the worsening of mental health disorders for some people and the increased availability of deadly street substances.
One such substance, the synthetic opioid fentanyl, has the potential to be several hundred times more potent than opioids generated from naturally occurring sources. The drug, which can be prescribed legally to relieve pain, is inexpensive to produce and has gained popularity as a strong heroin substitute in the black market.
According to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, there has been a significant increase in the number of overdose deaths in the city, with more than 2,300 occurring in the 12-month period that ended in March last year. Approximately six people died of overdoses every day in the city in recent months, according to the office. According to the office, the vast majority of those fatalities were caused by fentanyl, heroin, or a combination of the two substances.
Additionally, Mr. Williams had spoken candidly about his own battle with drug addiction in the months leading up to his death.
A five-season HBO series that aired in the 2000s, “The Wire,” explored the underbelly of crime and drugs in Baltimore, as well as the ways in which it connected with institutions such as City Hall, the police, and educational institutions. The series is largely regarded as one of the best ever produced on television, and Mr. Williams’s character — a merciless assassin with a surprise soft side and a strong code of honour — was one of the most popular characters with the audience during its run.
According to the complaint, the investigation into Mr. Williams’s death was based on prolonged detective work, license-plate readers, and surveillance video footage, among other things.
Police were called to Mr. Williams’s residence on September 6 after receiving a report of an unconscious male. They discovered him dead on the floor with what were subsequently determined to be narcotics and related paraphernalia on a table, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, detectives followed Mr. Williams’s car’s movements across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan shortly before 1 p.m. on Sept. 5, as well as back across the bridge to Williamsburg, using licence plate reader records and GPS data from Mr. Williams’s cellphone.
When Mr. Williams exits his parked automobile on South Second Street after returning to Brooklyn, a security camera captures him going approximately a block to the location where Mr. Cartagena and a number of other men were waiting. According to the complaint, one of the individuals places his hand on Mr. Williams’s shoulder as a sign that he recognises Mr. Williams and wishes to communicate with him.
It appears that Mr. Williams is speaking with Mr. Cartagena in the video, and that Mr. Cartagena then walks around a row of garbage cans, retrieves what appears to be a plastic bag, reaches inside the bag, and removes an item, according to the claim in the complaint.
The complaint alleges that he then engages in hand-to-hand combat with Mr. Williams while reaching over the trash cans. Mr. Williams then returns to his car, drives to his apartment complex, and never emerges, according to the criminal complaint.
The next day, Mr. Williams was located in the same clothes he was wearing when he was caught on tape making a drug transaction, according to the complaint.
Five Emmy Award nominations during his career, Mr. Williams was an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform, notably as the founder of an organisation in Brooklyn that attempted to reinvent how public safety in the city may look like.
He was born and reared in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighbourhood, where he grew up in a working-class housing complex originally known as Vanderveer Estates. Even as he rose to fame in Hollywood, longstanding Flatbush residents said after his death, Mr. Williams never forgot his roots and continued to give back to the community where he had grown up.