January 19, 2021 – Baltimore anti-violence activist Dante (Tater) Barksdale, a former member of the city’s notorious East Baltimore drug empire chronicled in the acclaimed HBO television show The Wire turned beloved community leader, was shot to death in the Douglass Homes projects over the weekend.
The 46-year old Barksdale has been the face of the city’s Safe Streets program since the 2000s. His uncle was legendary Baltimore gangland figure Nate (Bodie) Barksdale, who died of natural causes behind bars in 2016 at age 54.
Bodie Barksdale inspired two characters on The Wire (2002-2008), an under-the-radar smash and critical darling that dove into the world of narcotics trafficking and police and political corruption in Baltimore. He was a suspect in multiple drug-related homicides while working as West Baltimore kingpin “Little Melvin” Williams’ No. 1 enforcer in the 1980s.
The Wire’s “bad guy” for the first three seasons was Avon Barksdale, a composite of Little Melvin Williams and Bodie Barksdale. One of Avon Barksdale’s fictional lieutenants was a character named Preston (Bodie) Broatus in honor of Bodie Barksdale.
According to DEA records, Barksdale murdered his mentor and Williams’ rival, Frank Harper, before joining forces with Little Melvin and going on to takeover the city’s dope trade. Barksdale was acquitted at trial of killing Harper in 1982.
Barksdale’s reign of terror in West Baltimore finally came to a conclusion in 1986 when he was convicted of torturing three enemies (two men and woman he thought were sent to kill him) in an 11th floor apartment at the Murphy Homes projects and received a 15-year state-prison sentence. Barksdale’s partner in crime and sidekick, Roland (Ronnie Mo) Bell, also had a character inspired by him appear on The Wire.
Bodie Barksdale came out of prison in 2000 and became an anti-gang counselor in his old neighborhood. An addiction to drugs eventually led him back to the streets though and in 2014 he was ensnared in a federal drug probe involving members of the Black Guerilla Family prion gang.
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