Emil Guillermo: Tyre Nichols; Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay update-suspect confesses; Corky Lee, and Emil Amok in NYC

Image for Emil Guillermo: Tyre Nichols; Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay update-suspect confesses; Corky Lee, and Emil Amok in NYC
Portraits of some Monterey Park victims by Jonathan Chang, via San Gabriel Valley Tribune

After this weekend there will be one civil rights story in America—the video of the beating of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis police officers, all of whom have been fired and charged this week with felonies, including second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Those who’ve seen the video say Nichols will be a new generation’s Rodney King, the African American man brutally beaten by the Los Angeles Police March 3, 1991.

The difference in Memphis is that most all the key players in this case are Black. The police officers, the police chief, and Nichols.

That means racial animus shouldn’t be a factor in this case. This seems to be a pure case of police brutality where the only relevant color is blue.

How did it happen that the supposed “good guys,” five of them, went over the edge of the thin blue line to be accused of murdering an innocent man?

Nichols is said to have been beaten to death like a human “pinata.”

If the video is as ugly and repulsive as everyone says, the Blue Code will be tested. And exposed. Again.

The Nichols beating caught on video will push the California mass shootings off the front pages. But local news orgs are getting out new information about Chunli Zhao, 66, the man accused in the Half Moon Bay mass shooting that killed seven.

On Thursday, Zhao told NBC News Bay Area he killed the seven people who died, though he thought he killed eight. The confession came in a jail house interview conducted by Janelle Wang, who spoke to Zhao in Mandarin.

“I did ask him about killing seven people and shooting eight on Monday, and he admitted that he did do it,” Wang said in her report, adding that Zhao felt he had undergone years of being bullied and overworked. Zhao also believes he suffers from some sort of mental illness.

“He says on Monday he was not in his right mind,” Wang said.

Zhao was charged Wednesday with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. I’m wondering if he had a court appointed attorney who spoke Chinese or used an interpreter to communicate with his client. Surely, I would have kept Zhao away from any reporters.

I didn’t feel sympathy for him until I heard about the jail house interview.

I’ve done some jail house interviews myself, one a serial rapist/murderer whom I had to testify against. But I know how a reporter’s good “get” may get in the way of Zhao’s search for impartial justice.

We won’t have that problem in Monterey Park. The suspected killer, Huu Can Tran, 72, took his own life Sunday after the rampage last Saturday night at the Star Ballroom killed 11 people, and wounded 9.

Investigators there are still searching for a motive, but with Tran dead, it all seems moot as the funerals begin and people struggle with grief.

I found myself staring at a loop on TikTok for minutes. It was a video of the first person identified as a victim, Mymy Nhan, 65, a regular at the Star Dance studio. Nothing I’ve seen in all the coverage quite captures the emotional loss of Monterey Park like watching Mymy on that TikTok loop, dancing endlessly.

Jan. 27 is the day my old friend, the photographer Corky Lee, died of complications from Covid two years ago. He is the first and only person I know who died of Covid specifically. He died before vaccines were widely available.

About three years ago, we talked about bringing my one-man theater piece, “Emil Amok: The Amok Monologues” to New York. The pandemic killed that idea.

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But now that people are out and about, I am venturing out of my closet in California and coming to a live audience.

“Emil Amok: Lost NPR Host Found Under St.Marks, and other stories…” is my one-hour show where I talk about the absurdities of life as an Asian American Filipino. There’s the racist history that’s common to all Asians in America. I talk about my colonized father, working my way up in media to being the first Asian American to host NPR’s “All Things Considered.” I also talk about Harvard and affirmative action, and I’m sure I’ll sneak in a Corky story.

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It’s a tragi-comic storytelling that’s only comic because there’s too much pain in all our real stories.

Come see the show at the New York City Frigid Fringe, and as my show title suggests, it’s at the intimate Under St. Mark’s Theater in Manhattan, Feb. 16 to March 4. The show’s on at various times, so click on this link to get all the dates and show times. Willie Guillermo, my late father, who was naturalized on Feb. 16, thanks you in advance.

NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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