Donnie Andrews

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Andrews (left) with (from left to right) Fran Boyd, Jim True-Frost, Sonja Sohn, Jamie Hector, (Andre Royo is in the bottom row)

Larry Donnell Andrews (April 29, 1954[1] – December 13, 2012) was an American criminal and anti-crime advocate. He was convicted of murders which he committed in 1986. He was the inspiration for the character of Omar Little, portrayed by Michael K. Williams, on HBO series The Wire.

Andrews grew up in Baltimore, where he became a stickup artist. Andrews robbed drug dealers, but avoided involving innocent bystanders. After committing a double murder in 1986 for a local drug kingpin to support his heroin addiction, Andrews surrendered to the police. He began counseling inmates to avoid gang life, and continued his anti-gang outreach after his release from prison.

Early life[edit]

Andrews grew up in a housing project in West Baltimore. He was physically abused by his mother. At the age of 10, he witnessed a man being beaten to death over 15 cents. Andrews became a stickup artist who robbed drug dealers,[2] but his code of ethics included never involving women or children.[2]

Andrews was known to police for armed robbery and drug dealing in the 1970s and early 1980s in Baltimore. Local drug kingpin Warren Boardley convinced Andrews, needing to support his heroin addiction, and Reggie Gross to take on the contract killing of Zachary Roach and Rodney "Touche" Young. Filled with guilt, Andrews surrendered himself to Ed Burns, a homicide detective with the Baltimore Police Department.[3] Working with Burns, he agreed to wear a covert listening device, which he used to implicate Boardley and Gross in the killings.[2]

Andrews was sentenced to life in prison for the two murders in 1987. He was denied parole on his first attempts, but continued to study, ended his addiction to heroin, and helped other inmates with an anti-gang workshop.[2][4] By 1998, Burns, his co-author David Simon, and the lead prosecutor who obtained Andrews' conviction together began to lobby for Andrews' release.[2][4] He was released in 2005.[5][6]

The Wire[edit]

While Andrews was in prison, David Simon sent him copies of the newspaper and Andrews gave Simon information about crimes taking place in Baltimore. Simon named Andrews a consultant on The Wire, an HBO show about crime in Baltimore. Simon used Andrews as an inspiration for the character of Omar Little, a stickup artist who never targeted innocent bystanders.[2][7][8]

Personal[edit]

Andrews performed youth outreach after his release from prison. His foundation, "Why Murder?", attempted to steer children away from a life of crime.[2]

While Andrews was in prison, Burns introduced him to Fran Boyd, who was the inspiration for the character of the same name on The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, which Burns and Simon co-wrote. Their first conversation came in January 1993, when Boyd was still using drugs.[3] Andrews encouraged Boyd to get clean, and the couple married on August 11, 2007.[4] Wedding guests included Simon and The Wire castmembers Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, and Andre Royo.[3]

Andrews suffered from an aortic dissection. He died as a result on December 13, 2012 in Manhattan at the age of 58.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/donnie-andrews-basis-for-omar-of-the-wire-dies-at-58.html?_r=0 New York TImes obituary for Andrews
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Fenton, Justin (2012-12-14). "Donnie Andrews, inspiration for Omar character on "The Wire," dies". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  3. ^ a b c Mallozzi, Vincent M.; Abruzzese, Sarah (August 19, 2007). "Vows: Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Urbina, Ian (August 9, 2007). "From Two Broken Lives to One New Beginning". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ Evanka Williamson (December 15, 2012). "Donnie Andrews, The Real-Life Omar Little, Dies at 58". Global Grind. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Joan Jacobson (December 17, 2012). "Donnie Andrews: an appreciation of the real Omar Little". Baltimore Brew. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Seth Abramovitch (December 15, 2012). "Reformed Hitman Who Inspired 'The Wire's' Omar Dies at 58". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Kate Stanhope (December 17, 2012). "Hitman who inspired The Wire's Omar dies at 58". WMBF News. Retrieved 18 December 2012.