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Tyre Nichols’s parents, Monterey Park hero to attend State of the Union

The figures in two recent national tragedies will be guests of the Congressional Black Caucus and President Biden at the Feb. 7 address

Flanked by the parents of Tyre Nichols and faith and community leaders, civil rights attorney Ben Crump speaks next to a photo of Nichols during a news conference in Memphis on Friday. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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The parents of Tyre Nichols and the man who disarmed a gunman who killed 11 people in Monterey Park, Calif., will attend President Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7.

RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the parents of Tyre Nichols, accepted an invitation to be guests of the Congressional Black Caucus at the speech, caucus Chairman Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) told MSNBC on Monday.

Nichols died Jan. 10, three days after Memphis police stopped him for an alleged traffic violation and beat and kicked him. Footage of the violent confrontation that was released Friday prompted nationwide outrage and has renewed calls for police reform.

“This is a very serious and important issue that all of us should agree: Bad policing in the United States should not exist,” Horsford told MSNBC. Horsford said he hoped Biden would see police reform as an important enough issue to talk about in the State of the Union.

The Congressional Black Caucus has also requested a meeting with Biden this week to push for negotiations “on much needed national reforms to our justice system,” Horsford said in a statement on behalf of the group. Biden told reporters Monday that he would be willing to meet with the caucus.

Black Memphis police spark dialogue on systemic racism in the U.S.

Biden spoke with Nichols’s parents by phone Friday afternoon, and said he was “outraged and deeply pained” to see the video of Nichols’s beating. He also called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which stalled in 2021.

“It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “We must do everything in our power to ensure our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all. Real and lasting change will only come if we take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.”

Brandon Tsay, who helps run the Lai Lai Ballroom in Alhambra, Calif., disarmed a gunman who entered his family business on Jan. 21. (Video: Reuters)

Brandon Tsay, a 26-year-old man hailed as a hero after he disarmed a gunman who targeted two dance halls in Southern California earlier this month, will also be a guest at the State of the Union address.

Tsay was at his family’s Lai Lai Ballroom in Alhambra, Calif., on the night of Jan. 21, when a man with a gun entered the lobby. Tsay later told “Good Morning America” that he realized he needed to get the weapon away from the gunman “or else everybody would have died.” What Tsay didn’t know yet was that the man had just come from another location in nearby Monterey Park, where he had fatally shot 11 people and wounded nine others.

Inside the Monterey Park shooting: Dancing, then gun shots

Taking advantage of a moment when the gunman seemed to be prepping his weapon, Tsay said, he lunged at him to try to wrest the gun away. The two engaged in a prolonged and violent struggle that was captured on surveillance video, until Tsay managed to seize the gun.

“The carnage would have been so much worse had it not been for Brandon Tsay,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said the following weekend at the Alhambra Lunar New Year Festival, at which Tsay was honored for his actions.

Chu told the crowd that she had invited Tsay to be her guest at the State of the Union. But shortly afterward, Biden himself invited Tsay personally, she said.

“I can’t believe you turned me down for the president,” Chu joked to Tsay.

Biden called Tsay last week to praise him for his “act of incredible courage,” according to a video of the exchange released by the White House.

“I wanted to call to see how you’re doing and thank you for taking such incredible action in the face of danger,” Biden told Tsay. “I don’t think you understand just how much you’ve done for so many people who are never going to even know you. But I want them to know more about you.”

Tsay told Biden that he was still processing what he had experienced and that the president’s call was comforting for him.

“Well, you have my respect. You are America, pal. You are who we are,” Biden told Tsay. “America has never backed down. We’ve always stepped up because of people like you.”

The death of Tyre Nichols

The latest: The Justice Department is launching a review of the Memphis Police Department’s use of force policies and practices. Each of the five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty in Tyre Nichols’ death. One of the officers texted a photo of bloodied Tyre to colleagues, according to records.

What has Memphis police footage revealed?: The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has sparked a complex dialogue on institutional racism in policing. Some of the most haunting videos came from SkyCop cameras.

Who was Tyre Nichols?: The 29-year-old father was pepper-sprayed, punched and kicked by Memphis cops after a January traffic stop. He was pronounced dead at a hospital three days after his arrest. At Tyre Nichols’ funeral service, his family said they are focused on getting justice.

What is the Scorpion unit?: After the fallout from the brutal beating, Memphis police shut down the Scorpion unit.