Houston Police Chief Troy Finner formally apologizes to Joe Campos Torres’ household for the 1977 loss of life

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – It was an attempt at redress more than 40 years ago.

The city of Houston has officially apologized to the family of Jose ‘Joe’ Campos Torres, the man who was 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 hold a public screening in the presence of Campos Torres’ mother. Finner could do that on Sunday.

“I said no one has had more pain than a mother for 44 years,” said Finner. “And I know this little excuse of mine – and I don’t call it much – because it should have happened a long time ago.”

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

The Vietnam veteran was taken into custody for misconduct in a bar. Instead of being sent to jail, police took Campos Torres to The Hole, a remote area behind a warehouse in Buffalo Bayou where Houston Police Department officers write reports, question suspects and sleep.

The police officers involved were sentenced to one year suspended sentence and a fine of US $ 1 for negligent homicide.

WATCH: Apology from HPD boss Troy Finner to the Torres Campos family

RELATED: How Has Police Reform Changed Since A Man Was Killed by HPD 44 years ago?

During a Sunday event to commemorate the tragedy, Campos Torres’ sister Janie gave an emotional overview of what happened.
“That destroyed us all,” she said. “The pain is way deeper than you can ever imagine. And yet, the worst, no matter how many excuses we get, it can’t change that because Joe never got justice in the end.”

The year after the Campos Torres assassination, the community’s reaction came to a boil when a riot broke out at a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Moody Park, injuring several people and officers. Police cars have been set on fire, local shops looted and burned to the ground. A police officer was hit by a car and suffered a broken leg. KPRC television reporter Phil Archer was hit in the head with a brick and Jack Cato, another reporter, was stabbed in the thigh.

So far there has been no public apology for what happened to Torres.

“That was direct murder,” said Finner.

While the speeches were emotional, the apologies seemed to offer little comfort to Janie Torres and her family.

“There is no justification for what was done to him that night,” she said. “You could have stopped. You should have stopped! I have so much to say because I’ve never been the same.

WATCH: Janie Torres’ emotional speech ahead of HPD boss Troy Finner’s formal apology

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