Stringer Bell: Wikis


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Stringer Bell
The Wire Stringer Bell.jpg
First appearance "The Target" (episode 1.01)
Last appearance "Middle Ground" (episode 3.11)
"Mission Accomplished" (episode 3.12)
(as corpse)
Cause/reason Murdered by Omar Little and Brother Mouzone
Created by David Simon
Portrayed by Idris Elba
Gender Male
Occupation Drug kingpin/Developer

Russell "Stringer" Bell is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by British actor Idris Elba. Bell served as drug kingpin Avon Barksdale's second in command, assuming direct control of the Barksdale Organization during Avon's imprisonment. Bell gets As in his economics classes at Baltimore City Community College and maintains a personal library, including a copy of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. He attempts to legitimize the Barksdale Organization by investing in housing properties and buying influence from politicians.

An intelligent planner and businessman in the drug-filled underworld of Baltimore, Bell is a close adviser to Barksdale and handles the economic decisions for the Barksdale crew. He is keen for the Barksdale outfit to act in a businesslike and professional manner, rather than appearing as mere thugs and gangsters and he often tries to temper Barksdale's bloodthirsty nature. Though not as vengeful as Barksdale, Bell is ruthless and completely devoted to his work, eliminating threats to the Barksdale Organization as soon as they appear.



Stringer grew up in the West Baltimore projects alongside childhood friends Avon Barksdale and Wee-Bey Brice.

Season one

Stringer was first seen with a trio of enforcers at the court house. He was attending the trial of Avon's nephew and lieutenant D'Angelo Barksdale for the murder of "Poo" Blanchard. Avon tasked Stringer with ensuring that a not guilty verdict was returned. To this end he had enforcers Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice, Savino and Anton "Stinkum" Artis attend the trial with him to intimidate witnesses and also bribed a key witness, Nakeesha Lyles, to change her story. When D'Angelo was released, Avon had Stringer demote him to running the operation in the low rise projects known as "the pit."

Stringer then had his hands full dealing with Omar Little's crew, after they stole some of Barksdale's stash from the pit. Stringer visited D'Angelo to instruct him about checking his organization for an informant who may have been giving Omar information. Avon ordered contract killings on Omar and all of his crew. Avon also tasked Stringer with assisting Stinkum in taking over new territory for the organization.

Stringer took Stinkum to survey his new territory with some additional muscle in the form of Wee-Bey and Marquis "Bird" Hilton. While there, Stringer received word from D'Angelo that two of his crew, Wallace and Poot, had spotted Omar's boyfriend Brandon at an arcade. Stringer drove to meet the young drug dealers at the arcade bringing the three enforcers with him. He had them abduct Brandon using handcuffs and posing as police officers. They tortured Brandon to death trying to discover Omar's whereabouts. They then mutilated his corpse and displayed it in the low rises as Avon had instructed. Omar responded to the brutal slaying by striking back at Stinkum and Wee-Bey as they made their move on the new territory, killing Stinkum and wounding Wee-Bey.

With this escalation of the conflict, Stringer tried to persuade Avon to offer Omar a truce. Planning to let Omar grow complacent, then kill him when he let his guard down. Avon initially brushed this suggestion aside, but after Omar nearly killed him, he agreed with Stringer's advice. Stringer also persuaded Avon to give up his pager so that he could act as a buffer between Avon and the rest of their operation.

As Avon grew increasingly suspicious that the police were watching him, Stringer took precautions to smoke out informants and to counter wiretaps. He instructed D'Angelo to withhold pay from his subordinates for several weeks; the ones who weren't asking for money at the end of that time were the ones who were being paid as informants. However, no informants were found. To foil wiretaps, Stringer insisted on phone discipline, asking D'Angelo's crew to remove nearby payphones and to walk longer distances to other phones instead.

When it came time for Avon to clean house, Stringer ordered the murder of Wallace, who had been a key witness in the killing of Omar's boyfriend. Stringer tried to find out about Wallace's whereabouts from D'Angelo but D'Angelo realized his friend was in danger and only told Stringer that Wallace had left their business. Stringer turned to Bodie Broadus, D'Angelo's second in the pit operation and learned that Wallace had returned to working for D'Angelo. Stringer asked Bodie to murder Wallace. He also had the witness he had bribed in D'Angelo's trial, Nakeesha Lyles, killed. Stringer assumed command of the Barksdale crew when Avon was arrested at the end of season one. D'Angelo was also arrested and when he learned of the murder of his friend Wallace he blamed Stringer, driving a wedge between the two. Stringer rewarded Bodie's loyalty by promoting him to run their operation at the 221 tower.

Season two

During season two Stringer faced a serious problem: the Barksdale crew's usual supplier, a Dominican named Roberto, was under investigation by the DEA. The Dominicans refused to deal with Avon, believing that he might have informed on them in exchange for a lighter sentence. Avon was unable to find a satisfactory alternative despite having connections in Philadelphia and Atlanta, causing Stringer to grow desperate.

Stringer had secretly become involved with Donette, D'Angelo's ex-girlfriend. He used the relationship to keep watch on the young Barksdale, growing concerned at D'Angelo's increasingly hostile attitude towards his uncle. When D'Angelo cut himself off from his family, Stringer grew worried that he might turn on them. He organized a contract killing through a connection in Washington, DC. Stringer's connection had his cousin strangle D'Angelo in prison and stage the death as a suicide. Stringer was emphatic that Avon could not learn of his actions.

Stringer's relationship with Avon began to fray further as he secretly agreed to share Barksdale territory with Proposition Joe in exchange for Joe's higher-quality heroin, an idea which Avon vehemently opposed. Finally, when Avon hired legendary New York enforcer Brother Mouzone to chase Proposition Joe's dealers out of the Barksdale towers, Stringer had to maneuver carefully to preserve his alliance with Joe while keeping it secret from Avon; he solved this problem by tricking Omar into shooting Mouzone by blaming him for Brandon's death. After Mouzone returned home, Avon grudgingly agreed to Stringer's proposal, but the two were no longer as close as they had been before.

Season three

Stringer was still effectively in charge of the Barksdale empire at the start of the season, and had become even more businesslike in his thinking, obtaining more real estate and business fronts for the organization while making them legit, forming a retail co-op with Proposition Joe and other rival dealers, and running meetings with his underlings according to Robert's Rules of Order. Stringer was also shown to have been involved in political donations since season 1, giving money to consultants and politicians including State Senator Clay Davis in order to facilitate the development of a set of condominiums.

After Avon was released from prison, he wound up hindering Stringer's efforts to reform the drug game and make the transition from a criminal to a legitimate businessman. While Stringer wanted to move into a strictly financial role of wholesaling drugs then using the profits to make legitimate business investments, Avon, fresh out of prison, was determined to remain a gangster and go to war against the fledgling drug lord Marlo Stanfield. As Avon's war against Marlo spiraled out of control, Stringer found himself in danger of being cut off from Proposition Joe and the co-op's heroin supply. This would have made a victory over Marlo worthless, as street corners generate no money without drugs to sell on them.

Beyond the two being at odds over how to run their empire, Avon accused Stringer of not being hard enough to be in their business anymore. Angry at the accusation, Stringer then reasserts his attitude by stating that he's the one who set up D'Angelo's death as D was starting to break down and would have given everyone in the Barksdale organization up as soon as he could have. Stringer and Avon saw their relationship fray with this revelation, and while Avon eventually seemed to come to terms with Stringer's role in D'Angelo's death, things were not the same between the two afterwards.

To make matters worse, Stringer's efforts at real estate development were hamstrung by a sophisticated legitimate world that, college courses aside, Stringer did not fully understand. His condominium project was repeatedly delayed by various bureaucratic obstacles including redesigns required by housing codes, recalcitrant permit assessors, and the usual delays that crop up in construction projects. Though his co-developers took these setbacks in stride, viewing them as the cost of doing business, Stringer was frustrated by what he perceives as inexcusable delays that would not be tolerated in the drug world. Even worse, Stringer paid Clay Davis over $250,000 to connect Stringer's organization with federal housing grants, only to learn that Davis had fabricated the federal contact and pocketed the money. Stringer, not being familiar with the way such arrangements work, assumed that bribery was as common in legitimate business as in the drug trade and was easily duped. When Levy heard from Stringer about what happened, he immediately recognized what had happened and let Stringer know he had been robbed. Avon managed to talk Stringer out of attempting to assassinate Clay Davis, pointing out that killing street dealers and other low-profile targets was not the same as killing a state senator, which was likely to bring down the wrath of not only the Baltimore police, but state and federal authorities as well.

As Stringer saw his legitimate ambitions imperiled, he moved quickly to return Avon to prison. To that end, he betrayed Avon to Howard "Bunny" Colvin by revealing the location of his safehouse, in the hopes of getting Avon out of the way long enough for Stringer to quiet things down. However, Stringer himself was simultaneously betrayed by Avon, when Avon sold him out to Brother Mouzone and Omar Little who sought vengeance against Stringer for engineering a conflict between them.

Shortly after Avon met with Brother Mouzone, Avon and Stringer enjoyed one last drink at Avon's harborside condominium, both men knowing they had betrayed the other, but reminiscing about old times and acting as if they were still the best of friends. The next day Omar and Brother Mouzone tracked Stringer to his development site, killed his bodyguard, and, after a tense confrontation, shot him to death.

With Avon and most of his men imprisoned, and Stringer dead, the Barksdale organization crumbled. Marlo Stanfield and Chris Partlow became the new power in West Baltimore by default.

After Stringer's death, Detective McNulty and the police searched his apartment. The apartment was extremely clean, stylishly furnished and tastefully decorated. Far from any expectations of a drug kingpin, his bookshelf included a copy of The Wealth of Nations. McNulty was amazed at how little he truly knew about Stringer, despite having spent three years building a case against him.

In the season five episode "Late Editions," Clay Davis, while describing to Lester Freamon how drug money is routed from the kingpins to state and city politicians through their lawyers, mentions how he conned a fellow named "Bell" into giving him a great deal of money because Davis had convinced him that he would be able to use his connections to push his development forward quickly. As Davis laughs about how he conned Stringer, Freamon's eyes light up in recognition. [1][2]


Stringer's name is a composite of two real Baltimore drug lords, Stringer Reed and Roland Bell.[3] His story bears many similarities to the life of Kenneth A. Jackson—specifically, his crossover from the illegal drug trade to legitimate business ownership and political contributions.


  1. ^ "Org Chart - The Street". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-27. 
  2. ^ "Character profile - Stringer Bell". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-07-30. 
  3. ^ Kahn, Jeremy (August 2, 2007). "Real life, and then some". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 

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