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Avon Barksdale

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I ain't no suit wearing business man like you... you know I'm just a gangster I suppose... and I want my corners.
~ Avon Barksdale, summing up his outlook and ultimate goals to his right hand and best friend Stringer Bell.

Avon Randolph Barksdale is the dominant Heroin dealer in West Side Baltimore, heading the Barksdale Organization. He has been the focus of the BPD's Major crimes unit and their investigations into the drug trade in Baltimore, because of his brutal methods of sendng messages to rival dealers or anyone who crosses him. He serves as the main antagonist of the first three seasons of the HBO series The Wire along with his best childhood friend and right hand man, Russell "Stringer" Bell. He is the main antagonist in Season 1, and half of Season 3. 

Barksdale is portrayed by Wood Harris

Early life

Barksdale grew up in the terrace high-rises. Although before the events of "The Wire" Barksdale had no criminal record—his juvenile record is said to have been expunged. Up until the Barksdale Investigation, Barksdale remained a furtive but increasingly powerful force on the west side of Baltimore's drug trade. Avon is the son of Butch Stamford, though no father is listed on his birth certificate. Stamford was an infamous Baltimore criminal, whose name is known by both the police and other drug traffickers. Avon, a former amateur boxer who once fought in a Golden Gloves Tournament, was taught by his father how to survive in "the game" at an early age.

Season 1

Avon's errant nephew and lieutenant D'Angelo had murdered someone in public, so Avon has Stringer pay a witness, Nakeesha Lyles, to change her story in court. D'Angelo is acquitted and everythng goes as planned, but Avon chastises him for costing the organization time and money, and demoted him from the 221 Tower into "The Pit". Avon also arranged for Barksdale enforcer, "Bird" HIlton, to murder a second witness, William Gant, whom he had been unable to intimidate or bribe. The body was left on display outside the 221 Tower, to send a message to people who might consider testifying. D'Angelo was shaken by the murder of an innocent man and began to have second thoughts about his life, but Avon persuaded him to remain loyal to the family.

Avon was angered when The Pit's stash was robbed by legendary Baltimore stick-up man Omar Little, and he placed a heavy bounty on Omar and his crew (nearly doubling it upon realizing Omar was homosexual). Wee-Bey murdered a member of Omar's crew and Omar's lover Brandon was captured and tortured by Stringer, Wee-Bey, Bird and another enforcer named "Stinkum" Atris. In response, Omar killed Stinkum and wounded Wee-Bey in a gun battle, culminating with a failed assassination attempt on Avon outside of Orlando's. Wee-Bey managed to save Avon at the last minute.

The Pit was also subject to raids which seized a second resupply of narcotics and arrested a carrier Kevin Johnston and a dealer Robert Browning. The police also seized an entire day's profits from Wee-Bey, totalling $22,000. They also briefly seized a payment on its way to State Senator Davis but were forced to return it because of his political influence. The robbery and police activity combined raised suspicion that there was a leak in the pit, and an increasingly paranoid Avon ordered D'Angelo to remove the pay phones (which had indeed been wiretapped).

Barksdale's front man Orlando had been trying to take part in the drug trade, and Avon felt obliged to beat him, warning him that the only reason he was front man was because he was clean. Orlando persisted in trying to go into the business for himself, and was arrested by an undercover state police officer. Avon promptly has his name removed from the club's license. Orlando agreed to aid the police in their investigation, and Avon sent Wee-Bey, along with two other enforcers Little man and Savino Bratton to kill him. The job was complicated when they found a woman accompanying Orlando and Little Man panicked and shot her. Avon quickly learned that the woman was a Detective Kima Greggs.

The shooting of a detective led to a massive crackdown from the police. Savino was forced to turn himself in, but faced a sentence of just three years because he was not directly implicated in the shooting. Avon and Stringer held a crisis meeting with attorney Maurice Levy, who advised them to remove any possible loose ends. Avon ordered several murders, including unreliable enforcer Little Man, Nakeesha Lyles and a young dealer from The Pit named Wallace.

Avon finally incriminated himself on a hidden camera in his office sending D'Angelo to pick up a package of drugs. He was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute, but as this was the only arrest he had ever incurred he was sentenced to a total of seven years with possibility of parole.

Season 2

Avon continued to run his organization from within the prison through Stringer. D'Angelo and Wee-Bey were imprisoned alongside Avon, both due to serve much longer terms. Wee-Bey informed Avon that a prison guard, named Tilghman, was harassing him, in retaliation for the murder of a relative. Avon tried to reason with Tilghman, but the guard refused to talk to him. Knowing that Tilghman had a side line in smuggling narcotics into the prison, Avon contrived to supply him with tainted heroin, causing numerous deaths. When the warden began an investigation, Avon came forth as an "informant", accusing Tilghman of the crime. Narcotics were found in Tilghman's car, and Avon's first parole hearing was brought forward in exchange for the information. Despite being the one ultimately responsible for the crime, he is due to be out of jail within a year. His nephew D'Angelo grows more distant from Avon, refusing to take part in the scheme, and seeming depressed, even turning to drug use. Without Avon's knowledge, Stringer has D'Angelo killed in a fake suicide, out of fear that D'Angelo has grown weak and will turn on the organiztion.

Because Avon's arrest was closely followed by the arrest of one of their suppliers, the New York-based Dominicans were suspicious that Avon might have named them to receive a lighter sentence, and the business relationship was brought to an end. Avon recommended secondary sources to Stringer but was unable to secure anything much better. Stringer suggested that they give up a portion of their territory to their rival Proposition Joe. Avon quickly dismissed the idea, reminding Stringer how hard they worked to seize the territory in the first place. Stringer eventually decided to allow Proposition Joe to move in despite Avon's order. Avon responded by contracting the feared enforcer for hire, Brother Mouzone, to defend his turf. After Mouzone had been shot by Omar (an assassination attempt which Stringer arranged, without Avon's consent or knowledge), Avon reluctantly agreed to Stringer's proposal.

Season 3

Upon his release from prison, Avon is showered with gifts by Stringer: a nightclub, a penthouse apartment, expensive clothes, a new SUV. Avon, while appreciative of Stringer's largesse, is outraged that Stringer has let their control over their territory slip as much as it has, and gets involved in a gang war with up-and-coming drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield. Avon employed a woman named Devonne through "Slim" Charles to find Marlo. She encounters Marlo in a bar, seduces him, and gives him her phone number so they can meet up again. When they later plan to meet up, it becomes clear that a trap has been set and Marlo's enforcer Chris Partlow shoots and kills a Barksdale crew member named Tater and wounds Avon in the process. Later, Marlo finds Devonne and shoots her dead in front of her home.

When two "hitters" in his organization, under the direction of Stringer, attempt a hit on Omar as he accompanies his grandmother to church, Avon is angered by the breach of a long standing tradition of an unspoken truce on Sunday mornings. Omar's elderly grandmother loses her hat during the failed hit. Avon is also worried by rumors of "Omar's granny getting shot in the ass" and the shooters "pissing on her hat" circulating amongst rival gangs. After letting the soldiers responsible wait for hours at headquarters, he tells Stringer that the only repercussions he would impose on them would be to require them to buy Omar's grandmother a new hat.

At the beginning of the season, Avon makes an effort to recruit Dennis "Cutty" Wise into the organization, due to Cutty's legendary past as a soldier and his and Avon's near-coincident release dates (Cutty's imprisonment having lasted 14 years). Cutty joins the group for a time but soon admits that the game is not in him anymore. Avon, disappointed but understanding, allows the old soldier to go on respectful terms. Later, when Cutty asks for $10000 to help start a gym for neighborhood boys, Avon happily offers him $15000 cash.

Avon and Stringer continue to clash over their conflicting methods of leadership; Proposition Joe tells Stringer that he will withhold his supply of high-quality drugs from the Barksdale organization if Avon's war with Stanfield continues, but Avon believes that giving in to Stanfield will make the organization look weak and diminish its standing. During an argument with Avon, Stringer reveals that he had D'Angelo killed for the good of the organization. The revelation damages their relationship irreparably. In an effort to return Avon to prison and thereby remove him as an obstacle to Stringer's business aims, Stringer contacts Major "Bunny" Colvin and reveals the location of Avon's weapons safehouse. Meanwhile, Brother Mouzone returns to Baltimore and confronts Avon about Stringer's attempt to engineer a conflict between Mouzone and Omar. Mouzone threatens to use his connections to cut off the Barksdale organization's supply of drugs from New York and destroy Avon's credibility. In an effort to avoid a war with Mouzone, Avon reluctantly provides Mouzone with information about Stringer's whereabouts as a result of their seemingly irreconcilable philosophical differences in how to run the organization, and Mouzone (along with Omar) kills Stringer. Avon privately admits to Slim Charles that, contrary to rumors that Stringer fell at the hands of Stanfield's crew, Stringer actually died because of "some other shit." Depressed, Avon concedes that he has come around to Stringer's point of view and is tired of "beefing over a couple fuckin' corners." Slim retorts that they are already in a war, and even if the premise for it is false, they must still fight on it.

Avon was ultimately arrested again; based on evidence that Stringer provided, police raided Barksdale's wartime safehouse and were able to put weapons and conspiracy charges on all those present. Barksdale's presence at the time of the arrest constituted a parole violation which mandates serving the remaining five years of his seven-year sentence. Barksdale's lieutenants claim ownership of all the weapons, suggesting that the state's attorney will have a difficult time pinning any further charges on him. At the montage at the end of season three, Barksdale sits at the defense table at a court room with all those apprehended during the bust sitting behind him. The shot has no dialog, so it is unclear just how long Barksdale would be in prison, but it can not be less than five years, and it is implied that he received an additional 25 years for conspiracy to commit murder and weapons charges, with this the Barksdale organization is all but dismantled with many members dead or imprisoned and Avon himself going to prison for possibly the remainder of his life.


Avon awaiting sentencing with most of his crew, finally defeated by the Major crimes unit.

Season 5

Marlo Stanfield, now the leading drug trafficker in Baltimore's west side, arranged a meeting with former Greek soldier Sergei Malatov at the Jessup Correctional Facility in the hopes of contacting The Greek and Spiros Vondas. When he arrived, Marlo was surprised to find Avon on the other side of the prison glass. Avon revealed that he was still a man with a formidable reputation in the prison, and that Sergei had approached him once he began receiving direct payments from Marlo in order to get on Sergei's visiting list. Avon explained that he had intuited Marlo's plan of using Sergei to contact Vondas. Avon stated that he agreed, philosophically, with Marlo's plan to get around Proposition Joe & the other Eastsiders and cut them out of the supply connection (this could also be due to Joe's past dealings with Stringer behind Avon's back). Avon playfully espoused love for Westsiders and stated that he was prepared to let bygones be bygones in regards to his war with Stanfield. However, he informed Marlo that in order to gain access to Sergei, Marlo would have to pay Avon's sister $100,000. Marlo agreed, made the payment, and at his next visit to Jessup, Avon granted him access to Sergei. As Marlo and Sergei talked, Avon oversaw their meeting. Sergei was initially uninterested in cooperating with Stanfield's plan and refers to him dismissively, but is swayed when Marlo points out that if any arrangement he can make with Vondas are beneficial to the Greeks, it would be Sergei who "made it happen". By the end of the series, Stanfield's second-in-command Chris Partlow has made peace with Barksdale's organization as well, as he is seen fraternizing with Barksdale's soldier Wee-Bey Brice in the Jessup prison yard.

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