Nash in police mugshot; he was once an aspiring actor.
On Monday May 30, Earl Nash attempted to rape 51 year old, Nenegale Diallo in her Bronx apartment. He was subsequently killed by her husband Mamadou Diallo, 61.
While Diallo was initially charged with manslaughter for the killing, charges have been reduced to assault due to the circumstances.
Earl Nash, 43, whom I knew since the 1990s, had a record of 19 prior arrests. Previous arrests included drugs, arson, unlawful imprisonment, robbery and assault. In 2003 he pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment for holding a 17-year-old girl captive for two days.
He was released from prison in 2015 after serving nine years for bribery and drug possession. Nash was paroled from prison on July 20, 2015. His most recent arrest was May 14, 2016 for aggravated harassment.
Images shown on media outlets consist of Earl’s mug shot and photos which depict him displaying fistfuls of cash in the modern classical “thug” pose.
But, there is another dimension to Earl Nash.
He was once a tremendous actor. He was in the lead role of one of my plays “Endangered Species” in the 1990s. The play also ran at The National Black Theater. Some of Nash’s acting colleagues went on to bigger roles; including in “The Wire.”
Some reached back to try and help.
In this Bronx case, clearly, he was perpetrator and predator, but for years he served as the devoted son, hopeful father and an extremely talented actor. Unfortunately, all of this tremendous potential was waylaid by mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. He was even more challenged after his mother passed away.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels.
People with bipolar disorder who also have psychotic symptoms are sometimes misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. This illness often results in the sufferer’s inability to make informed choices; alcohol and drugs are commonly misused in an attempt to self-medicate manic and depressive symptoms.
Sometimes a mood episode includes symptoms of both manic and depressive symptoms. This is called an episode with mixed features. People experiencing an episode with mixed features may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless, while at the same time feeling extremely energized.
Bipolar disorder can be present even when mood swings are less extreme. For example, some people with bipolar disorder experience hypomania, a less severe form of mania. During a hypomanic episode, an individual may feel very good, be highly productive, and function well. The person may not feel that anything is wrong, but family and friends may recognize the mood swings and/or changes in activity levels as possible bipolar disorder.
Without proper treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.
While the onset of severe symptoms will result in patients taking prescribed psychotropic drugs, once symptoms subside they often refuse to continue due to mood improvement. This suspension of medication can result in relapses.
My own mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 70. When she refused treatment for a serious degenerative eye disease, her children, concluding that mental impairment led her to choose possible blindness over medical care, called 911.
A battery of physical and psychological tests led doctors at the hospital to suggest confinement for observation and drug intervention, but the children opted to take her home and engage out-patient resources.
A combination of ongoing therapy and psychotropic medication resulted in her living until age 89 without ever having to be hospitalized. These medicines were sometimes disbursed in a way that would be defined as “politically incorrect.” When she, as many with bipolar disorder, refused to take them during relatively stable periods because she “felt fine,” her family allowed no choice.
Earl Nash received the same diagnosis several years ago, but friends and family weren’t able to provide the kind of ongoing hands on support system to monitor his psychiatric protocol, nutritional needs and insist he take prescribed medications during those times when he believed they were no longer necessary.
Without that level of monitoring, my mother would have likely ended up relapsing, another elderly homeless woman roaming the streets and exhibiting behaviors which would have led to police intervention.
Nash experienced several such setbacks over the years which resulted in arrests, convictions and jail terms where he had no access to psychiatric and psychological services due to penal indifference and budget restrictions.
He is not alone. Across this country there are tens of thousands like Earl Nash who look just like him. Men and women incarcerated for suffering with untreated mental illnesses. The proportion of Black males in this situation, outweighs their percentage within the U.S. population.
This is no vilification of Diallo, a cab driver who rushed home wielding a tire iron after his wife called about the attempted rape in progress and found a shirtless man outside of his door who proceeded to attack him while his wife screamed from inside their apartment, “it’s him.”
“Stand your ground” defense is unnecessary when life and limb are clearly in jeopardy. Under those circumstances, I would be Mamadou Diallo.
The tragedy of Earl Nash is equally egregious. Many homeless and disoriented young men wandering urban streets in cities like Seattle, Los Angeles and New York are mentally unstable. Not a surprising state to find oneself in after childhoods and teen years spent in poverty, broken families and foster care, emotional deprivation, nutritional deficits, shoddy medical care, poor educational backgrounds and scarce employment opportunities.
Add to this toxic mix, an onslaught of news media and entertainment which daily defines you as the “nigger thug” born to be a criminal. How many times is “suicide by cop” a despairing result of needed intervention but received incarceration?
We must also look at the big picture of the many other mentally ill out there.
If there is to be any reduction of incidents such as this one in the Bronx as well as the innumerable assaults and murders committed by law enforcement due to, and reinforced by, centuries of racist stereotyping and an accompanying culture of fear which turns the presence of a Black man into a dangerous situation, there must be an honest assessment as to why banks get bail-outs while brothers don’t.
Ms. Shepherd-King is a Brooklyn-based educator and a playwright. One of her plays, Endangered Species, is about the daily risks confronting young Black males. She is the mother of filmmaker Shaka King whose work includes “Moolignans.”