Actor Wood Harris, who played Avon Barksdale in The Wire, interviews… (YouTube )
A few years back, Nathan “Bodie” Barksdale had a public spat with “The Wire” creator David Simon over the extent to which he was an inspiration for drug boss Avon Barksdale in the series. All the while, he vowed that he was long out of the game.
But now the Drug Enforcement Administration says Barksdale is a high-ranking member of the Black Guerrilla Family. U.S. marshals arrested him this week on federal heroin and gun charges after he spent a short spell on the run.
Barksdale, 52, is accused of taking part in a heroin conspiracy with alleged drug supplier Suraj Tairu, who is also charged in the case. The pair would meet to conduct deals at Rite Aid parking lots just north of downtown Baltimore, according to court documents.
Tairu’s lawyer said his client has pleaded not guilty, and he is reviewing the evidence ahead of a trial scheduled for next year. Barksdale’s attorney declined to comment on the case.
But his mother, Emma Grier, said she did not know anything about the charges and believed Barksdale’s life was back on track.
“He was working and everything,” she added. “He’s turned his life around.”
But the DEA’s Special Investigations Group, a team of federal agents and Baltimore police, has long been working to bring down top figures in the BGF, said DEA spokesman Edward Marcinko. The agency first named Barksdale as a BGF member in court documents in 2010.
At the time, Barksdale, who Marcinko said has been shot more than 20 times, denied having any link to the gang when asked about the claim by the Baltimore City Paper.
“I’m a filmmaker,” he said. “I’m pushing 50, man. I’m too old for that. That’s for teenagers.”
Shortly before that, Barksdale worked to develop a television series portraying himself as the “real Avon Barksdale.” He said his middle name was indeed Avon.
Barksdale was a notorious Baltimore criminal in the 1980s, and Simon detailed his violent heroin-dealing operation in the Murphy Homes, reporting that he counted Hitler and Machiavelli among his heroes.
But in an email, Simon said that while he had no problem with Barksdale marketing his own show, Nathan Barksdale and Avon Barksdale were not one and the same. Nor for that matter is the character Bodie on “The Wire” modeled on Nathan Barksdale, Simon added.
“There are some anecdotal connections between his story and a multitude of characters,” Simon said. “We mangled street and given names throughout ‘The Wire’ so that it was a general shout-out to the west-side players. But there is nothing that corresponds to a specific character.”
As in “The Wire,” authorities used a wiretap to help build the case against Barksdale. His calls were recorded after an informant provided officers with his number this past spring, according to court documents.