Tyre Nichols’s parents, Metro cop among State of the Union guests invited by NV delegation

By: - February 7, 2023 5:00 am

President Joe Biden delivering the State of the Union address on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Saul Loeb – Pool/Getty Images)

Nevada’s congressional delegation are using their State of the Union attendance to highlight the need for legislation in areas of police reform, mental health and health care.

The parents of Tyre Nichols are expected to attend President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address Tuesday as guests of Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) and the Congressional Black Caucus. Nichols was a 29-year-old Black man whose fatal beating by Memphis police officers exactly one month ago has sparked national outrage over police brutality.

The Congressional Black Caucus, which Horsford chairs, invited Nichols’s mom, RowVaughn Wells, and her husband, Rodney Wells. CBC Executive Director Vincent Evans on social media confirmed they accepted the invitation.

Horsford and other members of the Black caucus met with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week to urge the administration to use its executive power for law enforcement reform. The Associated Press reported after that Biden and the caucus reached an agreement but details have not yet been publicly disclosed.

RowVaughn Wells is likely to be one of the most high-profile guests in attendance Tuesday, but hundreds of additional guests invited by members of Congress will also be present.

Democratic Rep. Susie Lee’s guest will be Misty Tzugaris, a mother and educator whose abortion story the congresswoman shared on the House floor in July, weeks after the overturning of Roe v Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In her firsthand account, which Lee read aloud, Tzugaris shared the medical complications that led her pregnancy to become nonviable around 20 weeks gestation: “I decided with my fetal medicine specialist to terminate. It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever faced. The trauma I would have experienced delivering a dead baby Miles would have been more than I could handle.”

“We are not careless, immoral or monsters,” Lee quotes Tzugaris as saying of women who terminate later into pregnancy.

In her statement announcing Tzugaris as her guest, Lee praised her constituent and other women like her for sharing their personal and often traumatic abortion stories.

“They shouldn’t have to, but the reality is that this new Republican majority has made it clear that they will do whatever it takes to advance an extreme agenda of federal restrictions on abortion, including a nationwide ban.”

She continued, “Misty and I will be sitting in the House chamber to remind (Republican) Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy to keep his hands off our reproductive rights because it has real consequences for real women.”

Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s guest will be Rachelle Pellissier, the executive director of Crisis Support Services of Nevada (CSSNV), which operates Nevada’s 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and provides crisis support services and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse.

Earlier this year, 988 launched as a new, nationwide three-digit phone number for Americans to call when they or someone they love are in crisis and need to be connected with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.

Pellissier in a statement described 988 as “the first step in creating a behavioral health crisis response system, that when fully functional, will include mobile teams and crisis stabilization centers.”

According to Cortez Masto’s office, CSSNV answered more than 87,000 calls last year. In addition to running Nevada’s statewide crisis call center, CSSNV is one of 12 national backup call centers that helps answer calls from around the country.

Efforts to fund and build out the support network here in Nevada are ongoing.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) invited as her guest DeRionne Pollard, president of Nevada State College. Pollard is the first Black woman to serve as permanent president of any institution within the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Titus in a statement called Pollard “a true trailblazer” and said leaders like her should be elevated across the country.

She added, “Southern Nevada needs a bold vision like Dr. Pollard’s to diversify our workforce and equip students to compete in the global economy.”

Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen’s guest is Laura Villicana, a Las Vegas Metro Police Department officer. Rosen in a statement said Villicana created the Northeast Area Command’s Hispanic Coalition, which hosts community outreach events such as “Agua Fresca With A Cop.”

“It is my honor to have Officer Villicana as my guest at this year’s State of the Union Address and highlight her work to ensure public safety, strengthen local relationships, and improve community outreach efforts,” said Rosen in a statement.

Rep. Mark Amodei, the sole Republican in the Nevada delegation, was not planning to attend Biden’s State of the Union address. “Like most other Nevadans , Rep. Amodei will watch the State of the Union on his TV,” a spokesperson in his office said via email.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.