Houston police chief formally apologizes to Joe Campos Torres' family over 1977 death

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Sunday, June 27, 2021
HPD chief apologizes to Joe Campos Torres' relatives
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Houston police chief Troy Finner gives an emotional apology to the family of Joe Campos Torres, including his mother.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It was an attempt at amends more than 40 years coming.

The city of Houston has formally apologized to the family of Jose 'Joe' Campos Torres, the man killed by police in 1977.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston police chief Troy Finner apologized to family members over Memorial Day weekend, but wanted to make a public showing with Campos Torres' mother present. Finner was able to do that Sunday.

"I said nobody has more pain than a mother for 44 years," Finner said. "And I know this little apology from me -- and I'm calling it little -- because it should have happened a long time ago."

On May 5, 1977, Campos Torres was arrested, beaten by police and the 23-year-old's body was found washed up on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou.

The Vietnam veteran was taken into custody at a bar for disorderly conduct. Instead of being taken to jail, police took Campos Torres to "The Hole," an isolated area behind a warehouse along Buffalo Bayou where Houston Police Department officers could write reports, question suspects and sleep.

The police officers involved were convicted of negligent homicide and were sentenced to one-year probation and a $1 fine.

WATCH: HPD chief Troy Finner's apology to the Torres Campos family

RELATED: What's changed with police reform since a man was killed by HPD 44 years ago?

During a Sunday event held to commemorate the tragedy, Campos Torres' sister, Janie gave an emotional take on what happened.

"This has destroyed all of us," she said. "The pain is a lot deeper than you can ever imagine. And yet, the worst thing, no matter how many apologies we get, it can never change the fact because Joe, at the end, never got justice."

The year after Campos Torres was killed, community reaction came to a boil when a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Moody Park erupted into a riot, injuring several people and officers. Police cars were set on fire, local shops looted and burned. One police officer was struck by a car and suffered a broken leg. KPRC television reporter Phil Archer was struck in the head with a brick, and Jack Cato, another reporter, was stabbed in the upper leg.

Until now, there has been no public apology for what happened to Torres.

"This was straight-up murder," Finner said.

While the speeches were emotional, the apology appeared to be little consolation for Janie Torres and her family.

"There's no justification whatsoever for what was done to him that night," she said. "They could have stopped. They should have stopped! I have so much to say because I have never been the same. My family has never been the same."

WATCH: Janie Torres' emotional speech before HPD chief Troy Finner's formal apology