(WASHINGTON) — Amid national outrage after the release of the video showing the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police, Mona Hardin was reminded of the pain she felt after learning that her son Ronald Greene died after a struggle with Louisiana State Police in May 2019.
“My legs went out from under me,” Hardin said in an interview with ABC News, describing how she felt when she learned of her son’s death. “I felt that same weakness when I saw Tyre.”
“It was so gut wrenching … it was like seeing Ronnie all over and then seeing a lot of the other victims all over,” Hardin said.
Greene died in May 2019 after a struggle with Louisiana State Police officers following a high-speed chase near Monroe where Greene failed to stop for a traffic violation.
And now Hardin, along with other families of Black men who died after encounters with police, are bringing their call for police reform to the nation’s capital on Tuesday where they are set to attend President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address.
“There’s an ugliness and there’s a comfort at the same time because only these families know what’s in each other’s hearts,” Hardin said. “All these families know the excruciating, shattering pain. Our lives will never be the same. That is the common thread that binds all of us together.”
The White House announced on Tuesday that RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells – the mother and stepfather of Nichols – are set to attend Biden’s address as guests of First lady Jill Biden. Nichols died several days after a violent traffic stop on Jan. 7 captured in body camera and street surveillance footage, which shows officers repeatedly beating him. Five officers were fired and have been charged so far in connection with his death and a sixth police officer was also fired.
ABC News confirmed that Democratic lawmakers invited other family members of Black men who died after encounters with police, including Jayland Walker’s mother — Pamela Walker, Michael Brown’s father — Michael Brown, Sr., Eric Garner’s mother — Gwen Carr, and Amir Locke’s father, Andre Locke.
Hardin said when she got a call from Rep. Troy Carter, D-Louisiana, inviting her to attend the State of the Union she was “stunned” and “elated” because she says for years her son’s case had been “dormant.”
Hardin worked to raise awareness about her son’s case for three and a half years before the Union Parish district attorney John Belton convened a grand jury to examine the case in November 2022, resulting in charges against five Louisiana police officers in December 2022 in connection with Greene’s arrest.
Trooper Kory York was charged with one count of negligent homicide and 10 counts of malfeasance. Union Parish Deputy Christopher Harpin was charged with three counts of malfeasance. Trooper John Clary faces one count of malfeasance and one count of obstruction of justice, while former Troop Commander John Peters and trooper Dakota Demoss each face one count of obstruction of justice.
The attorneys representing York and Harpin told ABC News on Monday that their clients will plead not guilty during the arraignment hearing on Feb. 22.
ABC News has reached out to the attorneys of the three other officers but requests for comment were not returned.
The initial police report said Greene died due to a car crash. But in May 2021, two years after Greene’s death, Louisiana State Police released hours of body camera video that showed a violent struggle between Greene and police. State troopers are seen punching and using a stun gun on Greene after he crashed his car following a pursuit in northern Louisiana on May 10, 2019.
“What happened to Ronnie was a cover up,” Hardin said, vowing to continue her fight for justice.
An autopsy report by the Union Parish Coroner’s Office found blunt force injury to Greene’s head, neck and torso. The cause of death was listed as “cocaine-induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are also investigating Greene’s deadly arrest. Meanwhile, Greene’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the troopers involved in the incident, as well as their supervisors.
The death of Nichols in January renewed calls for accountability and intensified a push for police reform as legislation stalls in Congress. The president, who met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the wake of Nichols’ death, is expected to address police reform as he urges lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which initially passed in the House in May 2021 but languished in the Senate.
Asked what she would like to hear from Biden, Hardin said, “please don’t look through me, look at me.”
“Look into my heart, see my pain. See the pain of all our families. Because if changes aren’t made, you’re looking right through us,” she added.
ABC News’ Amanda Su contributed to this report.
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