As details of the tragic murder of Tyre Nichols on Jan. 7 accumulate, it will perhaps never explain why five Black officers felt compelled to batter the young Black man to death.
Each day brings more arrests—now up to seven officers and three Memphis Fire Department personnel—and more of what might have been the motivation of these officers, including that one of them might have targeted Nichols because of a reported relationship with his ex-wife.
What is absolutely incontrovertibly true are the words of Cerelyn Davis, the Memphis police chief, who defined the beating as an act of “inhumanity” and later added, “I felt that I needed to do something and do something quickly. I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything of that nature my entire career.”
Her quick decisions in removing the officers from duty prompted a variety of speculations, not the least of which was whether such speedy action would have occurred if the officers had been white. A number of examples to the contrary were posted on social media outlets, including the time it took to fire the police officer involved in the killing of Black teenager Laquan McDonald in Chicago, who was fatally shot and killed by a white officer. It took more than a year to release the dash cam video of that incident.
The officers are facing several charges, with the most serious being second-degree murder, and, once again, there’s been a barrage of commentary that it should be a first-degree murder charge based on premeditation. This raises the question of how long does it take to premeditate and then commit a crime?
As the officers are brought to trial, we are sure to hear more perplexing and troubling discourse. On this occasion, the only difference from the multitude of others we have recently experienced is that race may not be a crucial factor.
Let’s see how the system and police culture are put on trial.