Reformed Hitman Who Inspired 'The Wire's' Omar Dies at 58

THE WIRE (2002-2008)

Whenever there's a conversation about the best show to ever air on TV, David Simon's The Wire is always the show to beat. How many ways does the slinging of crack cocaine on West Baltimore's corners impact the life of those around them? In each of The Wire's five seasons, Simon and his team examined a different way: the docks, the schools, the government, the media and always, always the streets.

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 -- allegedly over 15 cents. He soon was 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 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 soon was wearing a wire, capturing conversations implicating other criminals.

Andrews was paroled in 2005, and he devoted the remainder of his years to advocating to keep youths 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 him 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 stone-cold 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 during the course of the series. 

Williams, who now plays Chalky White on HBO's Boardwalk Empire, saluted his real-world inspiration on Twitter, writing on Friday, "R.I.P. to the original gangsta and a stand up dude Mr Donnie Andrews the man who was the inspiration for Omar Little sending out prayers."