Lester Freamon

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Lester Freamon
The Wire Freamon.jpg
First appearance "The Detail" (episode 1.02)
Last appearance "–30–" (episode 5.10)
Created by David Simon
Portrayed by Clarke Peters
Occupation Baltimore Police Detective
Title Detective
Spouse(s) Shardene

Lester Freamon is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Clarke Peters. Freamon is a detective in the Baltimore Police Department's Major Crimes Unit. He is a wise, methodical detective, whose intelligence and experience are often central to investigations throughout the series, particularly with respect to uncovering networks of money laundering and corruption.

Character background and plot relations[edit]

Detective Lester Freamon is a veteran of the force who established a reputation as what Bunk Moreland called "natural police" for his instincts, tenacity and intelligence. Before joining the force he served in the military. It is revealed in season 2 that he had fought in the Vietnam War. His first major unit was Homicide, but in 1989, acting against the orders of the Deputy Commissioner, he charged a politically connected fence to coerce his testimony in a homicide case. Though the case was successfully closed, the Deputy still had Freamon transferred to the Pawnshop unit as a punishment – after being told by Freamon that the Pawnshop unit was the one place he did not want to go. Freamon eventually spent thirteen years (and four months) in the assignment, until he had been completely forgotten by management. Deskbound for more than a decade, Freamon began making dollhouse furniture, a hobby which provides him with a substantial supplemental income, but also contributes to his eccentric reputation among fellow police. At the end of the series it was revealed that Freamon had joined the department in 1974 or 1975, having worked 32½ years at his retirement. Coincidentally, Freamon had joined the department around the same time as ousted commanders Commissioner Ervin Burrell and Major Howard "Bunny" Colvin (both of whom joined in 1973) yet had never obtained rank, focusing solely on police work.

Season 1[edit]

When the initial Barksdale detail was formed, Freamon was transferred in because he was viewed as a useless "hump", and the senior management had no intention of providing good detectives who would make a substantial case. After overhearing an offhand comment by Detective Greggs, Freamon tracked down a photo of Avon Barksdale, finally giving the unit a face to put to the name. He further impressed his colleagues when he found D'Angelo Barksdale's pager number at an abandoned stash house. Impressed by Freamon's capabilities, fellow detective Jimmy McNulty inquires about him in a conversation with Bunk who tells him Freamon is an ex-homicide detective. Later, while at the bar with Freamon, McNulty finds out that he was sent to the Pawn Shop unit for angering the then-Deputy Ops. Freamon then warns McNulty that he will probably suffer a similar fate at the conclusion of the case.

Freamon proved himself adept at building a case through the use of a wiretap; he recognized patterns of pager messages and telephone calls, which led to several breakthroughs in the Barksdale case, most notably finding the main stash house in Pimlico. He also led the investigation into the Barksdales' financial records and uncovered their various political connections, instructing Sydnor and Pryzbylewski in the mechanics of following the paper trail. He also recruited Shardene Innes, one of the dancers in Barksdale's strip club, as an informant, beginning a romantic relationship with her in the process.[1]

After Detective Greggs is shot, Freamon tracked a page made by Wee-Bey Brice, one of the shooters, to a pay phone where he found evidence implicating the other shooter, Little Man. He then used a contact from his pawn shop days (now working for a phone company) to trace call patterns and pinpoint Wee-Bey's whereabouts, leading to his arrest and conviction.

Following the dissolution of the detail, Major Rawls noted Freamon's competence as a detective and transferred him back into Homicide. Rawls had made room for Freamon in Homicide by dumping McNulty to the Marine Unit in the fashion that Freamon had predicted.

Season 2[edit]

Freamon was partnered with Bunk Moreland, and they were quickly recognized as the best detectives in Homicide. Landsman assigned them a seemingly impossible case involving the deaths of fourteen Jane Does. They were detailed Beatrice "Beadie" Russell, the officer from the Port Authority who had initially found thirteen of the bodies in a shipping container, as a liaison for the investigation. The women in the container suffocated after the air pipe was deliberately closed off and a fourteenth victim, killed and thrown overboard the previous night, was later tied to the case.

Freamon and Bunk traveled to the Philadelphia port where they held the vessel that had delivered the container to Baltimore. They attempted to question the crew, none of whom would admit to speaking English. They eventually let the ship go after learning that two crewmen had jumped ship after Baltimore. Based on the few facts they had, Freamon and Bunk deduced that the women were prostitutes being smuggled in from overseas, that one of the girls was murdered by a sailor after refusing sex, and that the rest were killed for witnessing the crime. The murderer was one of those who fled, leaving the investigation at a dead end. Freamon and Bunk were severely rebuked by a frustrated Rawls for releasing the ship without getting statements.

Freamon was relieved to be assigned, at Daniels' request, to the detail investigating Frank Sobotka and the dockworker's union. Though he continued to assist Bunk and Russell in the Homicide investigation, his primary focus became the investigation of smuggling through the Baltimore ports. On Russell's advice, Freamon convinced Daniels to clone the port's computers to track container movements. They were able to follow containers being moved illegally to a warehouse, ultimately linking Sobotka to the criminal activities of The Greek. The investigation closed with several arrests and, in the process, Freamon identified a dismembered body killed by The Greek's crew as being one of the crewmen who jumped ship. Bunk and Freamon solved the Jane Doe homicides after Sergei, facing a possible death sentence, gave them the details they needed, and Landsman and Rawls were again content with the Homicide unit's clearance rate.

Season 3[edit]

Freamon stayed with Daniels in the now-permanent Major Crimes Unit, building a case against their assigned target, a drug dealer named Kintel Williamson. Throughout the Season Freamon acted as a mediator between Daniels and McNulty. McNulty clashed with Daniels over the investigative targets and was urged by Freamon not to attempt any insubordinate moves, as Daniels had been the commanding officer who got McNulty out of the marine unit. When the unit's focus returned to the Barksdales, Freamon was stumped by the new strategy of using disposable cellular phones, finishing their pre-paid minutes before a wiretap could be approved. He masterminded a scheme wherein he went undercover as a con artist selling illegally recharged disposable phones (already wiretapped) to a Barksdale underling to whom Bubbles had been able to introduce him. Avon Barksdale himself was caught in a safehouse filled with illegal weapons and returned to prison, though an also-implicated Stringer Bell was murdered before he could be arrested.[2]

Season 4[edit]

Since Daniels was promoted to Major, Freamon is now the guiding force behind the Major Crimes Unit. The unit is running a wiretap on the Stanfield Organization, though Freamon is disappointed that Stanfield's lack of discipline is making the investigation too easy. Meanwhile, he continues to follow the Barksdale money trail, subpoenaing the financial records of state senator Clay Davis and property developer Andy Krawczyk. Freamon wrongly believes that Mayor Royce would not risk interfering with a criminal investigation to help them, because of the upcoming election. Feeling pressure from both, Royce angrily goes to Burrell and Rawls and forces them to deal with it. Burrell asks who is responsible for the subpoenas and Rawls correctly assumes Freamon as the lead instigator. In order to appease Mayor Royce, Rawls concludes that "proper supervision" will keep the unit under control and prevent them from moving forward. He installs a new commander, Lieutenant Marimow, aka "The Unit Killer", who immediately butts heads with Freamon by attempting to bring down the wiretap. Freamon is sent to Rawls who correctly assumes Freamon is willing to go to Judge Davis to keep his wiretap running. Rawls, recognizing Freamon's past instances of angering the department's senior commanders, points out Freamon's "gift for martyrdom" and instead subtly threatens his protégés Greggs and Sydnor, whom he claims will be the victim of Freamon's mistakes. Freamon agrees to allow the wiretap to be disconnected, but refuses to work under Marimow.

Out of respect for his shrewd investigative tactics, Rawls transfers Freamon back into the Homicide Unit, where Bunk has been investigating the murder of Stanfield drug dealer Fruit and the disappearance of suspect Curtis "Lex" Anderson. They both recognize that Stanfield likely had Lex killed in retribution, but are unable to find the body anywhere. Freamon further observes that Stanfield is not tied to any murders since the Barksdale Gang War ended, and begins to scour Baltimore for any trace of the bodies he knows must be hidden somewhere.

Herc unwittingly provides Freamon with a key clue, a nail gun he noticed when he pulled over Chris and Snoop. Pryzbylewski, now a teacher, provides second-hand information through one of his students, Randy Wagstaff, who knows where Lex was killed. While checking abandoned row houses in that immediate area, Freamon notices that one of the doors was nailed in while the others were screwed shut, and realizes that Lex's body must be in that house. He further concludes that the Stanfield Organization is leaving bodies in row houses all over the City. With the nails identifying which houses are doubling as tombs, more than twenty bodies are found.

Daniels, now a colonel gaining political traction, regains control over the Major Crimes Unit. He offers Freamon carte blanche, including the right to pick his own commander. Freamon assembles his team, and begins investigating Stanfield again, but Stanfield has been mentored by Proposition Joe, and is no longer as sloppy as he was.[3]

Season 5[edit]

Freamon reconstitutes the Major Crimes Unit under the command of Lieutenant Jimmy Asher. The unit includes detectives Jimmy McNulty, Kima Greggs, Leander Sydnor and Kenneth Dozerman. Initial investigations into the vacant house murders fails to provide enough evidence to bring charges against the Stanfield Organization. Freamon elects to settle into a long investigation and begins daily surveillance of Marlo Stanfield. Stanfield becomes aware of the ongoing investigation and curtails his violent activity and limits his discussion to face-to-face meetings. The unit becomes dissatisfied when fiscal problems at city hall lead to the withholding of over-time pay. The unit is eventually closed down to save funds. Freamon is detailed to the State's Attorney's office to continue to prepare a case against corrupt state senator Clay Davis. Sydnor joins him in the detail and they report to Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman.[4][5]

Freamon heralds the Davis investigation as a career case but is unable to let go of the work he has done on Stanfield. Freamon continues surveillance of Stanfield in his own time and is pleased to find that Stanfield is already "dropping his guard" now that he is no longer under observation. Freamon and McNulty meet with FBI agent Terrence Fitzhugh seeking federal support for a renewed Stanfield investigation but have no success.[6][7]

McNulty decides to secure funding for the Stanfield investigation by creating the illusion of a serial killer to draw media attention to the police department. Bunk Moreland is outraged that McNulty is interfering with crime scenes and falsifying case notes as part of his plan and enlists Freamon to talk sense into McNulty. McNulty has faked the strangulation of a homeless man who probably died of an overdose. Bunk's involving Freamon backfires when Freamon decides that McNulty hasn't gone far enough and suggests that he should make it more media-friendly by sensationalizing the killer.[8][9]

Sydnor uncovers evidence that Davis has lied on a mortgage application and Freamon realizes it is significant enough to file federal charges. Rupert Bond decides not to file the new charge as passing the case over to federal prosecutors would cost him the opportunity to raise his political profile. Bond has Pearlman hold a grand jury deposition for Davis and stages a photo opportunity as Davis leaves the court house to mark Davis as his target. Davis is acquitted following an incredible performance on the witness stand. Lester tries to get the U.S. Attorney's office to prosecute Clay Davis for lying on his mortgage application (information Bond did not use in the failed city prosecution); while the office declines because Davis is now a hero in Baltimore, Lester uses the information to blackmail Davis for information about a leak at the courthouse.

McNulty and Freamon collaborate on raising the profile of their fake serial killer, resulting in Freamon adding a sexual motive and supplying a set of dentures to create bite marks on the "victims". They conduct actual canvassing among the homeless as a cover. Freamon also recruits his old patrol partner Oscar Requer to look out for recently deceased bodies of homeless men. They soon have their next fake victim and McNulty mocks up the crime scene and mutilates the body to imply another murder.[10]

When Lester gets a hold of Marlo Stanfield's cell phone (via a loop from Vondas to Marlo to Levy to Herc to Carver to himself), he sets up an illegal wiretap on the phone but is initially surprised to find no conversations are taking place on it. Lester learns Marlo's cellphone is transmitting pictures of clocks and tries to break the code. When management provides more money for the fake serial-killer investigation, which McNulty redirects to the Stanfield investigation, more surveillance officers are added and Sydnor works out that the clock code is relaying location information for face-to-face meetings. Lester uses the code to the bust a re-supply for the New Day Coop members in which most of the Stanfield organization is arrested and a large quantity of heroin is confiscated.

Lester is upset that Jimmy McNulty told Kima about the fake serial-killer plan. Kima informs Daniels of the hoax. After Daniels and Pearlman look into it and discover the illegal wiretap and realize how damaging it will be to the Stanfield case, they inform Mayor Carcetti. Lester's fate is sealed along with McNulty's. Pearlman tells them they will not face jail but will never again be allowed to do real "police work", instead being buried in back-room units where nothing they do could ever be seen in a courtroom. Lester laments the loss of tracking Marlo's money trail, but takes the retirement, makes peace with Kima, and is last seen in the end-of-season montage putting together dollhouse furniture in the company of Shardene.

Critical response[edit]

Entertainment Weekly named Freamon one of the five most interesting characters in season four.[11] Television critic Alan Sepinwall has, on several occasions, stated that Freamon is his favorite character.


  1. ^ Dan Kois (2004). ["Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 19, 2006. Retrieved July 12, 2006.  "Everything you were afraid to ask about "The Wire""] Check |url= value (help). Salon.com. Retrieved 2006-07-12. 
  2. ^ "Org Chart - The Law". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-22. 
  3. ^ "Character profile - Detective Lester Freamon". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-22. 
  4. ^ Joe Chappelle (director); David Simon (story and teleplay), Ed Burns (story) (2008-01-06). "More with Less". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 1. HBO. 
  5. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 51 More with Less". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  6. ^ Ernest Dickerson (director); William F. Zorzi (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-01-13). "Unconfirmed Reports". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 2. HBO. 
  7. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 52 Uncomfirmed Reports". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  8. ^ Scott and Joy Kecken (directors); Chris Collins (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-01-20). "Not for Attribution". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 3. HBO. 
  9. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 53 Not for Attribution". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  10. ^ Dan Attias (director); Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story) (2008-01-27). "Transitions". The Wire. Season 5. Episode 4. HBO. 
  11. ^ Neil Drumming (2006-09-15). "High Wire Act". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2006-09-27.