Soldier’s death is yet another tragedy for family

The Associated Press

HOUSTON – Relatives say the death of Army Sgt. Jacob Molina has brought back painful memories of another violent death that scarred the family during the 1970s.

Molina, who died in Afghanistan on Tuesday, was the nephew of Joe Campos Torres, who was killed in one of the most notorious cases of police brutality in Houston’s history.

Molina, who was in his second overseas deployment following a previous tour in Iraq, died in a roadside bombing while serving in the Kunar province in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The Department of Defense said the married 27-year-old had received numerous awards and decorations.

Molina never met his uncle, a Vietnam veteran, but grew up hearing stories about him and looking at pictures of him in uniform. Relatives say Molina’s decision to join the Army was motivated in part by his uncle’s service.

Joe Campos Torres was wearing his Army fatigues and combat boots when Houston police arrested him after a bar disturbance in May 1977. He drowned after being severely beaten by officers and thrown into Buffalo Bayou. His body was found floating in the water a few days later.

Torres’ sister Sandra was only 8 years old when her brother died.

“I think about it all the time, the way his life was taken,” she said in Saturday editions of the Houston Chronicle. “I think about it all the time. It hurts.”

The officers were convicted in state court of negligent homicide and received one year probation. Federal charges resulted in prison sentences of a year and a day for civil rights violations, and a decade of probation for conspiracy.

Outrage in the Hispanic community led to violent protests.

“We never got justice,” Sandra Torres said. “If it would have happened now, it would have probably been different. All those cops, they just got a slap on the wrist, and you know what? Where’s my brother? He’s gone. The cops got to go home to their families while he was floating in the water for three days … They don’t even treat an animal like that.”

Molina’s mother, Janie Torres, was 10 when her brother was killed. She remembered her mother’s agony over losing a child.

“There’s no greater pain to a mom than losing one of your own,” she said on Thursday as she prepared to travel to Dover Air Force Base, Del., to view the return of her son’s body from Afghanistan.

“No matter what the circumstances are, the pain is still the same,” she said, breaking into tears.