Criminal Justice

Houston Chief Calls 1977 Police Killing ‘Straight-Up Murder’

Joe Campos Torres was a Mexican-American Vietnam War veteran who was beaten to death by Houston police officers in 1977.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner at the mayor’s announcement of a slate new police reforms, on April 29, 2021.

Houston’s police chief has publicly apologized to the family of a man killed by six officers more than four decades ago, calling it a "straight-up murder."

Joe Campos Torres was a Mexican-American Vietnam War veteran who was beaten to death by Houston police officers in 1977.

At a ceremony Sunday, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner gave a formal apology to Torres’ relatives and promised to work with the family to build a monument in Torres’ name.

"I am the chief of police, but I am a son of Houston, and what people need to understand is if you cannot see and feel 44 years of pain and suffering of this family, you are not human," Finner said.

The apology to Torres’ family came amid calls for police reform following the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Torres, 23, had been arrested on a disorderly conduct charge. The officers beat Torres for hours, then took him to the Buffalo Bayou where they beat him again and dumped his body in the water, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Two of the six officers were later convicted of misdemeanor negligent homicide and fined $1 and sentenced to probation.

Torres’ nephew, Richard Molina, said the family is in communication with the city to find a proper way to memorialize his uncle.

"Our ultimate goal is humanizing our uncle at this point. We want to let the people know what kind of person he was and what he meant to my family," Molina said.

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