The City of Houston is dedicating a new walkway, park and plaza in memory of Jose “Joe” Campos Torres, the Vietnam veteran who was brutally murdered in 1977.
On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people and borough leaders gathered around Torres’ family as they returned to Buffalo Bayou, where Torres was beaten by Houston police officers and thrown into the river 45 years ago.
The City of Houston unveiled the Joe Campos Torres Memorial Plaza and walking trail along Buffalo Bayou.
“This day is important not only for our family but for all families who have dealt with police brutality,” Arthur Navarro, Torres’ cousin, told the crowd. “This memorial will be the next best thing to our family and hopefully help future generations of young people.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Commissioner Troy Finner issued a public apology to Torres family members over Memorial Day weekend in 2022. Both spoke at the dedication ceremony and recalled where they were when they heard about the brutal murder of Torres and the riots that followed in Moody Park.
“I was 10 years old when it happened,” Finner said. “When I found out the family hadn’t received a simple apology. My mom and dad taught me if you’re wrong, just say so. It causes healing. So I want to thank the mayor for letting us have that conversation. He said, ‘By all means, let’s do it.’ And you deserve it. Thank you, Mama Torres, because today is about you and this whole family.”
Torres’ nephew, Shawn Carreon, also received the $15,000 Joe Campos Torres Scholarship. Carreon said he plans to pursue a geology degree at the University of Houston Clear Lake.
“Today is only to celebrate my Uncle Joe Campos Torres. My mother’s brother. I know she and my grandmother have been hurt the longest, but now they can finally have some peace,” Carreon said.
The site will be under construction for final completions.
Torres was arrested at a bar on May 5, 1977 for disorderly conduct.
After he was taken to jail, police were ordered to take Torres to the hospital. Instead, police took Torres to a location then known as “The Hole.”
There, the police beat Torres and left him to die in the river. His body was washed ashore a short time later.
The officers responsible for his brutal murder were convicted of involuntary manslaughter, sentenced to a year’s probation, and fined $1 for the crime.
“Nothing. No excuse for us,” said his sister Sandra Torres. For more than four decades, as of June 2021, the Torres family was never offered a public apology for what happened.
Finner stood in front of Torres’ family and said: “There was no justification for what happened that night.”
“It’s clear murder,” Finner said. “I stand by his family, and I stand by all families who have suffered injustice from police officers.”
Turner said in a statement:
“I am grateful to everyone who is making the Jose Campos Torres pitch a reality. Saturday’s dedication will mean years of healing. On the last memorial day, I joined Police Chief Troy Finner in apologizing to his mother and other loved ones on behalf of the city of Houston.
Mr. Campos Torres was brutally murdered in 1977. Nothing we do will bring him back to his loved ones. The monument sends a message; his life mattered and our city will never allow anything like it to happen again.”
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