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The Death and Aftermath of Actor Michael K. Williams

All Bad Not Good Nobody Wins

Photo by Tim Pierce, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote a piece not long ago about my fears concerning a Vehicular Homicide charge potentially resulting from my recurring drunk driving. Somehow, I avoided accidents.

Seeing that happen to other drivers scared the hell out of me. It was only when I got sober and did a lot of self-examination that I learned that that never occurred only by circumstance. I could have done that, in which case I’d be in prison.


I made some terrible choices when I was under the influence.

I bought drugs from some very sketchy people who did not have my best interests at heart. Like being told I was buying “THC pills,” but they could have been horse tranquilizers for all I knew.

Didn’t matter. I swallowed the pills, snorted the powder, whatever. Thank God, I survived.

The brilliant actor Michael K. Williams did not. Recently, he took a lethal dose. It’s tragic for him and his loved ones, and terribly sad for those of us who loved watching him act in brilliant shows. "The Wire" is frequently cited as one of the greatest shows ever, and his contribution was enormous. His work in "Boardwalk Empire" was also magnificent.


From the New York Times:

“A heroin dealer who sold a fatal dose to Michael K. Williams, the actor who shot to fame with his powerful portrayal of a fearsome drug-world figure in the series “The Wire,” pleaded guilty to a narcotics conspiracy charge in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.”

The dealer, Irvin Cartagena, was “originally charged with narcotics conspiracy resulting in death.” He was able to plea down, but he’s still looking at a sentence ranging from 24 to 30 years.

The heroin had both fentanyl and xylazine, known as “tranq,” cut into it.


When I worked as a bartender in the ‘80s, I heard stories and rumors of some bartenders being held liable for the actions of their customers. If they served someone who was clearly intoxicated, and that customer subsequently hurt themselves or others, the bartender could be charged for a crime.

I never chased that down to learn exactly what my risks were. I always thought it was a little crazy to expect a bartender to be able to know just how intoxicated someone was. Then again, if I serve them 30 beers and a dozen shots it’s not a big leap to say they’re under the influence.


Bartenders, in a legal setting, and heroin dealers, in an illegal setting, are out for the same thing - to make some money.

Cutting heroin with potent and cheaper drugs can turn a bigger profit.

Again from The NY Times:

“Prosecutors say the ring continued selling the drugs even in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Williams’s death.”


I have a close sober friend who frequently says “Thank God I’m not out there now. I don’t think I’d survive.”

It hits home because I feel the same way.

Once alcohol was making my decisions for me, look out.

I only did heroin a couple of times. But I took pills of all kinds. The most tragic stories these days are the ones of the young person, headed to college soon, who takes a supposed prescription pill at a party and dies because it’s a street drug packed with fentanyl.

That could be me, for sure.


So, in this case, a heroin dealer has pleaded guilty to a heinous crime.

And Michael K. Williams is no longer with us.

I’m grateful that I’m clean and sober for another day. Today.

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