Michael K. Williams's cause of death was 'acute intoxication,' medical examiner says

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The unexpected death this month of actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his roles in HBO series The Wire, Boardwalk Empire and Lovecraft Country, was caused by drugs, the New York City medical examiner said Friday.

The 54-year-old Williams, who was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Sept. 6, died from "acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin and cocaine." The office ruled that the manner of death was accidental.

Michael K. Williams died at 54. (Photo: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images)
Michael K. Williams died at 54. (Photo: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images)

A rep for Williams did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment's request for comment. 

Over the years, Williams had noted his struggles with drug use, particularly during the time when he was playing his breakthrough role of Omar Little in HBO's critically acclaimed crime drama The Wire, from 2002 to 2008. He described this period as one of doing drugs "in scary places with scary people." 

"I was playing with fire," Williams told the New Jersey Star-Ledger in August 2012. "It was just a matter of time before I got caught and my business ended up on the cover of a tabloid or I went to jail or, worse, I ended up dead. When I look back on it now, I don't know how I didn’t end up in a body bag."

He said that he "got so sick and tired of this charade," of hiding his drug use.

"No one who was in my circle, who knew me as Mike, was allowing me to get high. I had to slip away to do drugs," he said. "I had to hide it. I'd be gone for days at a time. I was lonely in that part of my life. I was broke, broken and beat up. Exhausted. Empty. I finally said, 'I can't do this no more.' I didn't want to end up dead."

In a July 2016 episode of Fresh Air, he told NPR's Terry Gross that he eventually turned to a New Jersey church for help. He said that he had learned to turn to prayer and meditation when he needed to separate himself from his character — something that hadn't always been easy for him.

"[When] The Wire and the character of Omar ended, I had zero tools, personally speaking, in how to deal with letting that go," he said. "I wasn't going around robbing people or anything stupid like that, but I definitely wore that dark energy that Omar was — he was a dark soul, a tortured soul — and I just ... lived in that and that's what people was attracted to. ... The lines got blurred."

Following Williams's death, some of the many people he'd worked with over his more than 25 years in the entertainment industry, such as Kerry Washington and Jurnee Smollett, paid tribute.

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