Following Michael K. Williams' Death, 4 Men Are Being Criminally Charged

Michael K Williams as Omar on The Wire
(Image credit: HBO)

Legendary actor Michael K. Williams of The Wire and Lovecraft Country fame passed away back in early September at the age of 54, in what was then described as an accidental drug overdose. Now, nearly five months later, four men who are alleged to be part of a drug distribution crew are facing charges in New York City. 

The four men being charged faced criminal complaints in federal court based in Manhattan, with a release from the United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York reporting that three of the four are facing narcotics conspiracy charges that claim fentanyl-laced heroin had been distributed to Michael K. Williams, who subsequently died because of it. The fourth is expected to make his appearance in federal court on February 3, while the first three were scheduled to be presented to a judge in federal court on February 2. 

Fentanyl-laced drugs were allegedly sold to Williams on September 5, just one day before he was found dead in his home by members of his family. The trafficking organization has allegedly been in operation as far back as August 2020, and possibly farther, in Brooklyn. 

Surveillance video screenshots seemingly show one of the defendants, Irvin Cartagena, making the transaction of the laced drugs with Williams. According to authorities, the men facing charges did not stop selling the fentanyl-laced heroin despite the death of Michael K. Williams. Of the four men arrested and facing charges in New York, one was arrested in Puerto Rico. 

Regarding Michael K. Williams' death due to laced heroin, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams noted that he was "a prominent actor and producer" who "tragically overdosed." The attorney went on to describe the situation with laced drugs as a "public health crisis." He said: 

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. The Southern District of New York and our law enforcement partners will not give up. We will bring every tool to bear. And we will continue to hold accountable the dealers who push this poison, exploit addiction, and cause senseless death.

The description of fentanyl-laced drugs as a "public health crisis" sheds more light on an issue that affects a lot of people, and has received some high-profile attention due to past celebrity overdoses, allegedly including Prince after taking fentanyl-laced Vicodin and dying in 2016 and Demi Lovato in 2018 after allegedly taking Oxycodone laced with fentanyl, although she ultimately recovered

While the case involving Michael K. Williams' death is being pursued on a federal level, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell noted the contributions of the New York police force in investigating the case and attempting to bring justice for the death of Michael K. Williams to his family. The commissioner stated:

As these federal charges show, the NYPD’s narcotics and precinct detectives in Brooklyn North lived this case, never relenting in their investigation until they could bring a measure of justice to Michael K. Williams and his family. It is a level of dedication the NYPD carries out in every case, from beginning to end, in every instance where criminals peddle narcotics and prey on the innocent, and where people die from illegal drugs.

Michael K. Williams' death at only 54 shocked fans and fellow celebrities alike, and stars ranging from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to Viola Davis to Kerry Washington shared tributes to the legendary actor in the wake of his passing. Although Williams is best known for his role as the iconic Omar on HBO's The Wire, he was actually nominated for an Emmy in the Best Supporting Actor category for Lovecraft Country at the 2021 ceremony that took place just a couple of weeks after his death. 

The death of Michael K. Williams was undoubtedly a tragedy, but authorities are working to find justice for him and his family. Fans can also celebrate his life by revisiting his body of work, including Boardwalk Empire, 12 Years A Slave, The Wire (among other offered shows on HBO Max) and more via streaming now.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).