A security camera is said to show a figure lurking in the hallway as Mamadou Diallo of the Bronx left his sixth-floor apartment on Monday night.
After the 61-year-old Lyft driver departed, the figure could be seen approaching the apartment door. He knocked.
The driver’s 51-year-old wife, Nenegale Diallo, opened the door, expecting that the knocking signaled the return of one of her children.
She instead beheld a wild-eyed stranger who pushed his way in. The nightmare took even scarier form as he quickly double-locked the door from the inside.
The man was 43-year-old Earl Nash. He and his own wife and brother-in-law had been arrested back in 2003 for raping, slashing, and battering a 17-year-old Bronx high school student while holding her prisoner for two days inside his Westchester apartment. His young daughter was present at the time.
The brother-in-law, Jonah Spencer, had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault and was sentenced to three years. Nash and his wife, Charlene Spencer-Nash, pleaded guilty to an even more reduced charge of unlawful imprisonment and got off with time served. Spencer-Nash is presently serving a zero-to-three-year term on an unrelated assault conviction.
Nash was subsequently convicted on drug and bribery charges and sentenced to a five-year term. He was back among us last July and remained at liberty even though an aggravated harassment charge on May 14 brought his total number of arrests to 19. He is believed to have been fueled by more than one illegal substance when he burst into the Diallo apartment. He signaled his intention by undoing his belt.
“If you want something like money, please let me give you. Please, leave me alone,” Nenegale Diallo told him, as recounted by DNA Info.
“I don’t want anything. I don’t want money. I’m going to rape you,” Nash allegedly replied.
Nenegale pleaded with Nash to leave her alone, but that only seemed to infuriate him. He shoved her down. He began to batter her and rip away her clothing, she told DNA Info.
The man may have had his way had her sister not been there. The sister sought to help, and a wild struggle ensued.
Nenegale managed to get to the door and open it. She began to scream for help, but Nash yanked her back inside, hitting her with his hands. He hoisted a chair and struck her in the forehead.
The battle between the madman and the sister continued. Nenegale was able to grab her phone and call her husband in his cab.
As she would tell DNA Info, she was screaming for her husband to call the police when Nash hit her again. The phone fell, but her husband must have still been able to hear her as she continued to cry out to him.
Nenegale was naked and bruised and dizzy from a blow to the head, but neither she nor her sister was about to stop fighting.
Nash finally moved to flee. Nenegale could have just left it at that.
But she was not about to let him just get away. She stepped after him into the hallway and began making all the noise she could, hoping her neighbors would respond as Nash waited for the elevator.
At that moment, the elevator doors opened and her husband, Mamadou Diallo, appeared. She called out.
“That’s him! Don’t let him out.”
The husband moved to stop the man. Nash kicked the husband and swung the belt that had signaled his initial intent. The husband proved to have armed himself with a tire iron.
Security camera footage is said to have captured the ensuing battle and to show that the husband struck Nash a number of times with a tire iron. One of the blows was to the head, and it apparently drew blood.
The husband is said to have then paused, as if shocked by the sight of the gore. He was clearly not some urban vigilante turned savage with a blinding need for vengeful street justice.
Either the husband or somebody else had called 911. Police and paramedics arrived to see Nash bleeding on the floor. He is said to have still been conscious and to have been belligerent with the first responders who sought to aid him. He was taken to Lincoln Hospital, where he died.
The exact cause of death remained undetermined. The beating was almost certainly a significant factor, but doctors wondered if the substances Nash seemed to have ingested might have also played a role. Toxicology reports are pending.
In the meantime, Mamadou Diallo was arrested and taken to the 42nd Precinct stationhouse on an initial charge of manslaughter. He emerged in handcuffs.
“Self-defense,” he said to the media waiting outside. “He threatened my wife. He threatened my wife.”
Mamadou Diallo was driven to Bronx Criminal Court for arraignment. The Bronx district attorney’s office studied the facts and sought to determine the appropriate charges. Subdivision 1 of Section 35.15 of the New York State Penal Law holds that a person may “use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person.”
But Subdivision 2 says, “A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person under circumstances specified in subdivision one unless the actor reasonably believes that such other person is using or about to use deadly physical force.”
Here, the difference between a belt and a tire iron could come into play.
Subdivision 2 also carries a further hitch: “Even in such cases, however, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that with complete personal safety, to oneself and others he or she may avoid the necessity of so doing by retreating; except that the actor is under no duty to retreat if he or she is in his or her dwelling and not the initial aggressor.”
There, the difference between being in the hallway and being in the apartment could come into play.
Subdivision 2 does say the use of deadly physical force is permissible if “he or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible criminal sexual act or robbery.”
The legal complication is that in this instance the rape attempt had ended by the time Mamadou Diallo encountered Nash.
All of which meant little to the public. Callers to the DA’s office said that Mamadou Diallo should be honored, not collared. A number of people offered to pay for his lawyer.
The DA’s office sought to balance fairness and the law. Mamadou Diallo was charged at his arraignment with assault, criminal possession of a weapon, and harassment. The case remained under investigation. There was a report that Nash had tried to lure a 10-year-old girl into a stairway before he knocked on the Diallo door on Monday night.
Just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, the judge released Mamadou Diallo on his own recognizance. He emerged from the courthouse in a red shirt and a white Tyvek suit, the detectives having vouchered some of his clothing for blood evidence. People in the street cheered as if he were clad in the snowy white of a guardian angel.
The grand jury will likely do much the same, only quietly.