Russell "Stringer" Bell was the second-in-command to drug kingpin Avon Barksdale. Shrewd and business-savvy, Bell attempted to legitimize the Barksdale Organization by enrolling in university economics courses, investing in real estate, and developing political connections.
Bell was born on September 17, 1969. He grew up in West Baltimore alongside his childhood friends Avon Barksdale and Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice.
Bell attended the homicide trial of Avon's nephew and lieutenant D'Angelo Barksdale alongside enforcers Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice, Savino Bratton and Anton "Stinkum" Artis. Their presence served to ensure witness Nakeesha Lyles would retract her earlier identification of D'Angelo. Later that night, Bell informed Barksdale that "the cop who tried to pin Gerard on "Little" Kevin" attended the trial. The next day, Bell demoted D'Angelo to lieutenant of "The Pit". ("The Target")
Bell took Stinkum to survey Avon's new territory with Wee-Bey and Marquis "Bird" Hilton. Stringer received word from D'Angelo that Wallace and Poot had spotted Omar's boyfriend Brandon at a local arcade. Stringer, along with Wee-Bey, Stinkum, and Bird, me Wallace and Poot at the arcade. Posing as police officers, the four abducted Brandon and, in retribution for the robbery and to locate Omar, tortured Brandon to death. They left Brandon's body in the low-rise housing projects.
After Omar murdered Stinkum and wounded Wee-Bey, Bell advised Avon to offer Omar a temporary truce. Avon initially rejected Bell's suggestion, but after Omar nearly killed him, he agreed with Bell's advice. Bell 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 and Bell became suspicious of a potential law enforcement investigation, Bell attempted to identify potential informants and minimize wiretap success. He instructed D'Angelo to withhold pay from his subordinates for two weeks, believing the ones who did not request money were being paid as informants. To foil wiretaps, Stringer ordered D'Angelo's crew to abandon the nearby payphones and walk longer distances to other phones instead.
Bell ordered the murder of Wallace, a witness to the kidnapping of Brandon. Bell attempted to identify Wallace's whereabouts from D'Angelo. D'Angelo, realizing the threat to Wallace, informed Bell that Wallace had left the drug trade. Bell learned from Bodie Broadus, D'Angelo's second-in-command, that Wallace had returned to working for D'Angelo. Bell ordered Bodie to murder Wallace. He also ordered Wee-Bey to murder Nakeesha Lyles.
After Avon was arrested Bell assumed de facto leadership of the Barksdale Organization. After D'Angelo learns of Wallace's murder, Bell abandoned D'Angelo. Bell rewarded Bodie's loyalty and promoted him to run their operation at Tower 221 in Franklin Terrace.
Stringer faces 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 decent alternative despite suggesting connections in Philadelphia and Atlanta and Stringer grew 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, Leech, had his cousin, Mugs, 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. 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.
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, 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, giving money to consultants and politicians including State Senator Clay Davis in order to facilitate the development of a building of condominiums.
However, despite Stringer's best efforts to reform the drug game and make the transition from a criminal to a legitimate businessman, he found his efforts hindered by Avon. While Stringer wanted to move into a strictly financial role of financing a package, then using the profits from that package 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 in order to take his corners from him. As Avon's war against Marlo spiraled out of control, Stringer found himself in danger of being cut off from Prop Joe and the co-op's good supply, and discovered that Clay Davis had in fact simply pocketed the money Stringer had been giving him, without doing anything to speed the construction of the condominiums.
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 as Stringer revealed this to Avon, and while Avon eventually seemed to be able to live with this, things were not quite the same between him and Stringer after that.
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 to Colvin, in the hopes of getting Avon out of the way long enough for Stringer to quiet things down. However, Stringer himself was betrayed simultaneously 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 made the deal, he 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. While Stringer is angrily meeting with a conversation with developer Andy Krawczyk, Omar interrupts the meeting by shooting his bodyguard dead. Stringer runs through upstairs for his life (or symbolically running away from the gangsta life), only to encounter Brother Mouzone. Omar and Brother Mouzone confront Stringer, who tries to offer money so they can let him go. Omar explains that Avon gave information about his whereabouts. Stringer, realizing that he can't get them to change their minds, orders them to carry on their task, which Mouzone shoots first into his chest several times before Omar opens fire from his shotgun, finally killing Stringer.
The day after Stringer's death, the Major Crimes Unit raided Avon's safehouse, where he and and his henchmen were found along with major artillery. McNulty delighted in showing Avon the search warrant, which names Stringer as the source of information. Because Avon was on parole, and the additional charges, he was sentenced to twenty years. 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.
|"The Target"||"The Detail"||"The Buys"||"Old Cases"||"The Pager"|
|"The Wire"||"One Arrest"||"Lessons"||"Game Day"||"The Cost"|
|"The Hunt"||"Cleaning Up"||"Sentencing"|
|"Ebb Tide"||"Collateral Damage"||"Hot Shots"||"Hard Cases"||"Undertow"|
|"All Prologue"||"Backwash"||"Duck and Cover"||"Stray Rounds"||"Storm Warnings"|
|"Bad Dreams"||"Port in a Storm"|
|"Time after Time"||"All Due Respect"||"Dead Soldiers"||"Amsterdam"||"Straight and True"|
|"Homecoming"||"Back Burners"||"Moral Midgetry"||"Slapstick"||"Reformation"|
|"Middle Ground"||"Mission Accomplished"|
- Stringer's name is a composite of two real Baltimore criminals, Stringer Reed and Roland Bell.