Donnie Andrews, a former Baltimore drug world hitman whose life partly provided the inspiration for the character of Omar Little on HBO’s beloved crime epic The Wire, has died at 58 from heart complications, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Andrews was surrounded by violence for much of his life, growing up in an abusive household and even bearing witness to a brutal murder at a young age — all over an alleged fifteen cents. He was soon taken in by criminals and was robbing drug dealers at gunpoint in his teens. By 1986, he was addicted to heroin and carrying out hits for a major drug kingpin.
Andrews was arrested for the murder of two drug dealers, a crime for which he turned himself in and never sought a lesser sentence. He offered to cooperate with authorities “to repent,” and was soon wearing a wire, capturing conversations implicating other criminals.
Andrews was paroled in 2005, and devoted the remainder of his years advocating to keep youth on the right side of the law.
The Wire creator David Simon was a crime reporter for the Sun at the time of Andrews’ arrest, and sent Andrews copies of the newspaper while he served a life term in federal prison. He’d later use him as a consultant on The Wire, where Andrews, along with several other drug world assassins, became the inspiration for Omar — the killer with a moral code.
Played by Michael K. Williams, Omar was a Baltimore underworld legend who never deviated from his own set of rules, the golden one being that he never threatened anyone not in “the game.” Unlike Andrews, Simon made Omar gay. He had three lovers over the course of the series.