A 21-year-old man has been arrested and charged with killing a transgender woman in the Bronx last month.
New York City police say that Alpha Diallo stabbed 32-year-old Dior Ova, who also went by Tiffany Harris, in the chest multiple times during a confrontation inside the third-floor hallway of an apartment building in the Fordham Heights neighborhood on July 26. He faces charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, and criminal possession of a weapon.
Police say it appears Diallo hired Ova for sex, though it wasn’t apparent what led to the altercation.
Michael Cibella, Diallo’s attorney, claimed during arraignment in Bronx Criminal Court that his client suffers from schizophrenia, and began hearing hearing voices, hallucinating, and experiencing insomnia and paranoia at age 11. He was officially diagnosed eight years later.
Diallo was arrested in 2016 for sex abuse in the Bronx, after being accused of groping a woman’s genitals and breasts.
In March 2017, he committed a robbery in Indianapolis, allegedly because he heard voices telling him to commit the robbery. He was sentenced in 2019 to time served and three years’ supervised release, and ordered to continue taking his medication to stop the delusions, reports the New York Daily News.
But Cibella claimed Diallo’s mental health has deteriorated since New York shut down and people began socially distancing themselves to prevent the spread of COVID-19. During that time, he stopped taking his medication, which Cibella said led to a marked change in his attitude.
“I saw a very noticeable difference from the young man I met last year,” Cibella said in court, referring to a meeting between the two to discuss the Indianapolis case. “I could see a paranoia in his eyes, which he expressed to me also.”
He also claims Diallo’s relatives informed him that his client was “making marks on the walls of his room with a knife.”
The New York Police Department had released a photo of the suspect in Ova’s death, in the hope of identifying him. But Diallo eluded capture, in part because he was involuntarily admitted to Morningside Hospital for psychiatric treatment on Aug. 7, after he was deemed a threat to himself and others, Cibella told the court. He was arrested soon after his release from that facility.
It remains unclear whether Diallo’s schizophrenia could prevent him from being found competent to stand trial for Ova’s murder.
The Bronx community, political leaders, and LGBTQ advocates held a vigil for Ova last week, in which they remembered her life and called for an end to New York’s “Walking While Trans” laws — those they say unfairly target and criminalize transgender people of color. They also lamented that she was initially — and continues to be –misgendered and called by her “dead name” in media reports.
Ova is one of at least 25 transgender women, mostly of color, who have been violently attacked and killed this year.
“We are experiencing an epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people like we have never seen before. Every single one of the at least 25 victims, including Ova, is a human being who had their lives stolen from them because of a mix of toxic masculinity, misogyny, racism and transphobia,” Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of community engagement for its Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement shortly after Ova’s death. “As we mourn the loss of yet another Black transgender woman, we must continue to call for it to end.”
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