Interview with Melanie Young
Melanie Young is the sister of Vincent Young, who died while in the custody of Harris County Jail on February 13, 2017. Melanie has been actively trying to get answers from jail and county officials about the circumstances surrounding Vincent’s death. Through the family’s “Justice for Vido” campaign, they have organized several rallies and protests in the ongoing quest for truth and justice. Melanie discusses growing up with Vincent, his impact on their community as an adult, his death, and finally her experiences trying to find truth. This interview took place at the home of Cinitra Resby in Houston, Harris County, Texas, on September 16, 2017. Melanie’s cousin, Cinitra Resby, also appears in this interview.
GABRIEL SOLIS: Okay, so, we're recording. Today is the sixteenth, I believe, of September. We're in Houston, Texas, at the home of Cinitra Resby. Thank you for letting us use your home. And we're here with Cinitra and Melanie Young, and the voice you're hearing is Gabriel Solis and Jane Field is behind the camera. And we've already explained what are purposes are for this interview, and do you have any questions or anything like that before we get started?
MELANIE YOUNG: No.
SOLIS: Okay. So, just like all interviews, I want to start by hearing a little bit more about you. You all, and the family, so—can you tell me a little bit about the family background, where the family's from, have y'all been in Houston pretty much forever?
YOUNG: Yes. We're from Houston, Texas. We're actually from this neighborhood, which is the Fifth Ward greater Houston area. And we grew up as a close-knitted family and that's where we got all our family values from being so close-knitted, everyone stays in the same area basically.
SOLIS: And you said your family's been in this area—about how long have y'all been in this area? As far back as you can remember?
YOUNG: I know personally, myself, I know I grew up here and I'm thirty-one. I've been here since I was five.
SOLIS: Okay. So, your family moved to this part of Houston when you were five? Or—
YOUNG: Well, my mom moved here when I was five. My grandparents was already here and when I was five, me and my mom moved here.
SOLIS: And Cinitra, how are you related to Melanie?
CINITRA RESBY: Vincent is my first cousin. She's my cousin as well. This is the daughter of my uncle.
SOLIS: Okay. Okay. And so, I want to know a little more about Vincent. What's the age difference between you and Vincent, Melanie?
YOUNG: We're a year and like, five months apart.
SOLIS: And was he older or younger?
SOLIS: Okay. Tell me a little bit about some of your early memories, childhood memories of you and Vincent.
YOUNG: He was always a person before his time. When we were kids we actually grew up—my mom struggled with a drug addiction, and my brother would go out at the age of—early as seven, and he'd go to church people and offer to cut their grass for us to have food. And also my mom to have food. And he'd go and he'd take us and go and collect cans. We had a neighborhood can center where we'd go collect cans and walk right down the street and we'd turn them in for cash and we were able to have food, snacks, whatever we wanted.
SOLIS: How do you think he—how did he know that he had to step up like that, even as a young kid? How old was he when he was going out and doing lawns?
YOUNG: He started at the age of seven.
SOLIS: Oh, my gosh.
YOUNG: Yeah, I don't know, he just always had this real strong—like he had to protect everyone. Like I said, my mom suffered from a drug addiction and her addiction, he would pick her head up and force food down her mouth for her to eat and I mean, that's just how he's been since I was old enough to know him. He's always—my mom told me stories about when I was first born, he wouldn't let nobody touch me. It was like I was his pride and joy and he didn't want to share me with anybody else. In fact, us growing up until elementary, first grade when we would walk to school, we walked with our arms around each other so people always thought that we were girlfriend and boyfriend. That's just how close we were. And he's always—everybody's his little sister or everybody's his little brother. That's just how he grew up. I guess that was already instilled in him.
SOLIS: Wow. And was he your only sibling or did you have other siblings?
YOUNG: No. I have four other siblings, him being the oldest, then me, then everyone else is after me.
SOLIS: Okay, and so, can you tell me a little bit about—I'm trying to get an understanding of what—that was here in this neighborhood?
SOLIS: Tell me what it was like growing up in the Fifth Ward here in Houston—can you describe it to me?
YOUNG: You know, when I first moved here we—I heard stories of how bad this area was and being when we actually moved here it was nothing like what people were saying. What a lot of people here about the Fifth Ward area, they think about trouble. And I remember, we'd sleep—because of the heat—we'd sleep with our door open with just the screen door latched to lock it and we've never had a problem as long as—and we've stayed here from the age of five until I was seventeen when I moved out on my own and I mean, everyone knew—all the kids knew each other, all the parents knew each other, and we could go anywhere around the neighborhood because someone always knew your parent and if you did something they'd tell your parents or either they'd just hide you, and that was fine.
SOLIS: So, it's kind of a community—pretty strong community, you would say?
SOLIS: And just while we're talking about Vincent as a young man or child—do you have memories Cinitra, of Vincent when he was younger? I don't know what the age difference is between you and Vincent.
RESBY: How old was he, thirty-three?
RESBY: And I'm thirty-seven. So, I was always older. First thing when I come to think of my cousin, I'm gonna say, he was a struggling Christian. He was a prayer warrior. Because he'd pray. I have a lot of pictures, well, with my Vincent shirt I went and found different pictures of him praying over his food, praying on his knees, praying. So just knowing that my cousin was a prayer warrior, he believed in God, so. And as for childhood, it was like she say, he was our protector, we were girls, and there's nothing that he wouldn't do for any one of us. He was awesome. You know, he's no—there's nothing bad I can ever say that during my time, I can honestly say the last time I was with my cousin it was the most beautiful time. I only have one regret, it's because I was the photographer for them that night and I didn't get that last picture. So, I mean, that's the reason I said I didn't really want to open, you know, go back to that day because it really takes a toll because there's a lot of regrets. It's a lot of—because I wish I would have spent more time with him. I wish I could have did more ministry with him. So, it's something to deal with. It's a big old hole. And I know it's in a lot of hearts because he was inspiration. I can't think of nothing bad that I—to say of him. He's always been good, he's always been my cousin Vincent. When I see him, he had the beautiful smile. He's gonna uplift you to the fullest, and he's gonna always make you feel like the queen that God put you here on the Earth to be. So, he was —he was an inspiration. He was.
SOLIS: And tell me a little bit more about Vincent as he grew into an adult. I assume he continued to be a protector over the family?
YOUNG: He had his own organization. He had a homeless shelter.
AUDIT: YOUNG: Yeah, he took in homeless. He was a wonderful father to his own kids and to others. He had—he played his purpose on Earth. He just was—he had [inaudible] Christian, you know? We all have struggles in our Christianism, but we cannot deprive ourselves saying that I was a Christian, I am a Christian, we all go through things, we all have different flaws that we don't point to really know that you are struggling in your Christian, too. It's just the smaller things that count in life. But to go that—do the good outweigh the bad? Yes, it does. His good outweighs his bad on his worst day, because he served a purpose on Earth. He didn't walk his journey without leaving a mark to show that I care for everyone else before myself. He put everyone else before his self.
SOLIS: Tell me a little bit more about the homeless shelter that he—
YOUNG: It was actually down the street here. They call them row houses, and what he did was he went and he rented maybe two of those houses and he went and got, filled those houses with homeless people. He hired someone to be there to cook, to clean, to make sure that the house was ran accordingly, and the thing with him was, is he didn't care who you were, you know? Like when some people would say, well, they're homeless, they're this, they're that—he believed in just be yourself and just let whatever you have going on with yourself, that's fine. He wasn't there to judge no one. And some of those people he actually had friends that were still homeless, and on a Christmas he called each and every one of us and told us we were going to have Christmas at his house that year. He went and bought the biggest Christmas tree, and he told us that, I'm gonna have twelve homeless men to eat with us this year. And he said, I want y'all to bring every one of them a gift. And that's what we did. And just to elaborate, you know, not saying that my brother was this, this person that didn't get in trouble, because he had a couple of run-ins with the police and each run in that he had with the police, most of them was just because my brother was a big guy, tattoos all over his self, so it was more so like profiling him for them to say well, he's this type of person so let's go and focus on him. And my brother would always say, I'm not who y'all think I am. This is where we're from and in our adolescent years, yes we made a lot of mistakes, as far as tattooing things of that nature, but I can't—you can't find a person in this area, I've come to find out more than just in our neighborhood, people walk up to me every day and say, do you know how your brother touched my life? Do you know how your brother—I told him my lights was off and he just came out of his pockets no questions asked and paid my light bill. Me just being his sister, I knew my brother's heart but I didn't know to that extent of how many people came out and it was just like, oh my god. It was mind blowing to me.
SOLIS: Wow. That's really—so do people still come up to you?
RESBY: My daughter—her at school, one of her counselors it was—I didn't know there was a problem with my ten-year-old, so she had talked to her counselor about it. And the world is so small that the counselor was one of my cousin's friends. She knew him. Wow. She was like, I was friends with him. She said, I just spoke with him two weeks ago. So it is such a small world saying this is a teacher that's in the school district and it was—my daughter, I guess, told her we were going through losing my cousin, and [inaudible] to her, she had already knew—it was already a situation that she was already battling with it because he was somebody that she was also was close to. So he was very known. Very—
YOUNG: I can't even—I stopped wearing my shirt. Because it's like—it's so emotional because we—me and my brother grew up real tight. My cousin as well, it was always us three as growing up from kids. And it's so emotional to go out and so many people are saying, I knew him and he used to do this and he did that and it's like, you're trying to heal and you think you know a person because you're blood and you're raised up with them, but you don't know them to the extent like where you go out into the world and everyone else is telling you how good of a person he was and I just stopped wearing my shirt because I couldn't take it. I'm trying to heal.
YOUNG: So, I stopped wearing my shirt because of that reason.
SOLIS: And then you said your shirt—I imagine it's a shirt that—
YOUNG: That had Vincent's face. Yes.
SOLIS: Did it have anything else, any messages on it?
YOUNG: It just said, Justice for Vincent Young.
SOLIS: And a picture of him?
RESBY: We have several. We got several shirts. The tee shirt places made money off of us. [laughter]
SOLIS: I understand it's real powerful when families have those shirts.
RESBY: And I actually asked the person that was making the shirts at the mall that we went to and at this particular mall we even had the people the store clerks that knew him. And when they heard about it they started reaching out and they already had all his pictures already stored. They took it upon themselves to go to his Facebook, Instagram, and pull out certain pictures so when we came we were given discounts because they knew him. He'd come to those stores all the time and he was—I don't care what you was going through, when he came it was like light in a room of darkness. And you knew when he came, you knew it was going to be an awesome night.
SOLIS: Wow. I have a lot of questions right now. There's a lot of different ways I want to go, but I want to just get back to Vincent as a father. You both have said he was a good dad to his kids and to other kids—you talking about kids in the neighborhood or nieces, nephews?
YOUNG: Most definitely. He—a couple of girls that we knew that my brother dealt with and they wound up separated and they got pregnant from someone else and my brother actually took those kids as his own. One of the little boys has his last name. He just felt like he could save the world. And to this day, those are his kids, and it's not seen no differently. He get out his car and the kids run up to him and he always—he always had something to tell you a better way than what you was doing. He never held back anything as far as—Well, if you finish school you can do this, that and the other, he always—he was always telling somebody what you can do even when you felt like you was right and he'd come up with some of this, and you like, you know what, you're right.
SOLIS: I'm not surprised to hear that he was an incredible man. I'm just curious—where—it struck me when you said he felt like he could save the world and you're telling me all these stories about helping with the homeless and where do you think this came from? Where do you think this belief that he could save the world, or this drive to help people—where do you think it came from within him?
YOUNG: I personally feel like it was something that—I believe it was something that God put inside him.
RESBY: Definitely, God.
YOUNG: Because he started showing these signs from early age, like I said. Like he was always very protective and it didn't matter who you were, it's just something that he had in him. He couldn't stand to see someone being bullied, he couldn't stand to see a woman crying, he just—it was just in him.
RESBY: It was in him, yeah. One thing you learn when God is in you, he's just in you. There's nothing you can portray, there's nothing that you can—some people act it—don't get me wrong, but when you have a person that, like she said, from seven-years-old on to death and she played out a lot of points to show you he was amazing, like with his mama's addiction, he stood through the storm and he went through what he had to go through and he overcame that. So, he knew that I would never want to go through this so you make yourself to be a better person, you make the best out of your life so that you can be better evangelist to others, you can be a benefit to others because, like she said, seven-years-old he made it not about him at a young age, so God was already leading him. He had already had the veil over his head to be a protector, a leader, because God knew that this was the life he was going to deliver to him when he put him on the path, God knew that he was delivering his life. Because, why? Melanie needed him, Mama needed him, so he was put here to serve his purpose.
And at the end of the story, it's just—and that's why I know, at the end of the journey it's going to be a beautiful thing. Because when God was put on the cross, he was what before? He was beaten, just like my cousin. My cousin was beaten. He was bruised, we've seen bruises. Brutalized and everything. The only difference is my cousin wasn't hung on the cross, but my cousin was beaten. So, when God watched them beat his son the way that he turned away that I was beaten, crucified, through my son and that's the story of my son—it's a message that we want answers to now. It's just being patient. But I know God's gonna take this situation and he's going to make the best message out of it but it's going to be on his time. It's just healing.
They say time heals all wounds, but we're seven months later and we have no healing because we have no answers. We have no one that's humbled themselves and even apologized. We haven't even got an apology saying even the sheriff's—they're not man enough to say they done what they done. They haven't even apologized for the loss. They went verbal on us, they got the judge and every person around and even my cousin. We went from having an interview with the news media to she left out the house with the family, and went verbal—negative on him. Saying so we—it was at a point where you don't know who's for who so you have no choice but to fall on the higher power and let him take it over, take over the situation because it's bearing on the family, wearing us down.
SOLIS: Yeah. And I wanna ask about that—about as you said, getting answers or not getting answers, I wanna get to that here in a few minutes, if that's okay. I just want—I really want—one of the reasons why I like doing these kinds of interviews is because, like I say, it tries to bring attention to who Vincent was. And he just sounds like a really incredible man. Is there anything else that y'all want to share just about Vincent or who he was, the kind of man that he was, before we move on? I want to ask also about his interactions—I'm also not surprised to hear that he was profiled. So, I want to talk a little about that, too. But, again, I just want to see if y'all have any other things you want to share about Vincent.
YOUNG: Just us saying, him being harassed by the police because my brother, like I say, he's always been a protector. And I remember an incident when—because we actually stayed in this very house, years ago—and we were—he had an incident where he was being bullied by a group of kids and that day me and him kind of like—I was like, y'all ain't gonna come here and mess with my brother. And I really felt like, from that day, he learned to protect his self. And even he got a name for his self, knowing that he was to get into altercations with someone he would be the person that won the fight. And that—it preceded him wherever he went. Even in jail. And a lot of the jailers and sheriffs that they have in there actually got either familiar with this area or they patrol this area. So, with that being said, it was like, you know—I guess certain men have that macho thing where if they're saying, well, he's the baddest, he's the toughest then you always have somebody that wants to challenge that. And that's what my brother fell victim to—being challenged because of the name that everyone else had gave him.
SOLIS: Yeah. And so, would he—did y'all ever witness the police messing with him—
YOUNG: Oh yes.
SOLIS: —harassing him?
YOUNG: Numerous times.
RESBY: Well, my husband watched them beat him in the Harris County Jail. Probably—what was that, like probably two years ago. It was about two years ago and he called me and told me to call my uncle and I called my uncle and he called my aunt Fay, and they called down to Internal Affairs and—
SOLIS: You said your husband witnessed this?
RESBY: Mhmm. He called me and he said, hey, they just beat Vincent. Call you uncle. He told me. My cousin told me to call my uncle, his dad. Call your uncle and tell him they just beat him really bad, to get down here and check on him. So that was like, two years ago.
SOLIS: And when you say, "they," do you mean—
RESBY: The sheriffs.
SOLIS: The guards who worked there?
RESBY: The deputies. The deputies with the stripes. Not the guards. These had years on the force. My husband was watching their stripes. These were men that had been on the force for years. It was not the new men, no. It was them.
SOLIS: And did your husband say why, or what precipitated that? Or were they just targeting him?
RESBY: They were trying to get him to take some medication that he didn't want to take. They was forcing it in his mouth and he said he kept telling them he didn't want the medication. So, I guess that was a term of them being—you know, control him. Because if something—I'm a caretaker, so—and I have clients that don't want to take medication. I actually have one that I just lost. And he don't like to take his medication because his belief in God. So as a caretaker, I can't force him, but my job is to give him his medication. But I can't force him. You see what I'm saying? To take this medication. If he believe something different, all I can do is let my company know, hey, he doesn't want to take the medication. His belief is in God, he's Mormon, and this is all I can do. And the same [inaudible] you can't force anybody to take medication that makes them feel something different. You know what your body can take. I know that day it was for their own personal reasons.
YOUNG: Yeah, because they had an altercation before that time where they had beat my brother and this is when they had sodomized him with a broom. They had actually first tried sending in inmates on him, because—again, because of his reputation of his hands. They sent in a few inmates on him and either some of them were—they knew him and was like, no, and some of them that did in fact charge him they took the short end of the stick. So, at that time they decided to give him a shot with a pill, which is a mood tranquilizer and then they proceeded to jump on him their selves. And then that time they had told my brother because just so happened they called his name to go home because we had went and made his bail. And we actually—me and his wife actually sat outside for like, maybe nine o'clock that night to five o'clock the next morning waiting on him to be released because when we went to visit they said he couldn't have a visit, he wasn't calling home, and it wasn't until five o'clock that morning that my father called and said, here's Ernie that works in the hospital just seen him in the hospital. So we then came down there and that's when he told us what happened to him. And they told him that he made it out this time, but if he was ever to come back they'd kill him and make it look like an accident. And he was scared for his life and at that moment, my brother had real long strong fingernails, and he actually bit his fingernail off and scratched in his stomach, "they did this to me," they had in fact, did what they said. He wanted to let us know. And upon us getting to the hospital with him he let us know everything that happened to him, and up until he went back this last time and he always tell us, I don't care what happens, if I go to jail and something happens to me, do not let these people tell you that I did nothing to myself.
SOLIS: Wow. And I hadn't read that. You know I hadn't read—we were preparing for this interview I believe it was a quote from you, Melanie, where you had indicated that he was scared about going back to jail. Before we get to that, I just want to clarify the story that you just told me about this beating that he—again, was that prison or jail staff that were doing that or other inmates?
YOUNG and RESBY [simultaneous]: Staff.
SOLIS: Okay, so the guards.
YOUNG: Yeah. They have a couple of officers, guards up in there that they have nicknames. These people are from certain neighborhoods that my brother traveled through. And like I said, when you have people saying things about you, your reputation is so up here then you have people that's willing to challenge you to see and that was the problem. They always said, well, he's not that tough, and I bet you I can—and that was what he ran into. So, it was a macho competition and like I said, he would be sought out just because of his tattoos, and just because he was big and everyone knew him. It was—some people—it didn't matter how good you are somebody is going to find a problem with you or somebody is going to have a vendetta against you and you don't even know about it. And myself and my mom were so afraid because my brother knew no strangers. And where I felt like, too many people knowing you could be dangerous and we always worried because we'd always tell him, well, Vincent, don't talk—don't mix and mingle with so many people and he'd just say God got me and I'm gonna deal with whoever I feel I want to deal with and then whatever happens, my life is in God's hands and that's just how he lived his life.
SOLIS: And how long before he went in to jail the last time was this incident where he was beaten? Was it—
YOUNG: It was a period of maybe, I want to say—three—How long have Uncle Tim been gone? Because the first time when he was actually assaulted it had been maybe four years, five years or so. And he never make it to—since that attack he never make it to the floor, because if they pull him over or they catch him where he always hangs at, we go right and make his bail so that he doesn't make it on the floor so he don't have to deal with him. But in this instance, they lost his paperwork for three days so it was like he hadn't processed in the system and in order to make bail you have to actually process in the system and so there was a three-day loophole where we couldn't touch him and he didn't make it home this time.
SOLIS: I'm just curious—I want to ask, generally, before Vincent died, with all the interaction with the police and guards in the jail, how did you and Vincent and the family sort of regard law enforcement and the criminal justice system? Was it distrust, was it you just assumed that they were—
YOUNG: Caution. Because I have another brother that he actually was a sheriff. He actually worked for the sheriff's department. It wasn't like we were like, we don't like the police or because we understand, all police are not bad. It's just certain ones that take their job and they can't handle power. We didn't look at the police any differently, it's just those certain ones that we know that targeted him, it was always the same officers that targeted him, every arrest that he had maybe besides two was the same officer, maybe his partner. It was the same one
SOLIS: The police officers arresting him?
YOUNG: Mm-hmm. And he couldn't—I would always say, well, Vincent, just stay from over there because I moved away and I'd tell him, Vincent, why don't you just stop going. And he's like, well, my mama here, my daddy here. My grandmother here. I'm not gonna let them run me away because, again, if something happens to me, then God have me, so he just refused to stay from on this side of town.
RESBY: That would be like abandoning your family basically if I pick up and my life—your mother is one of your Ten Commandments, you know what I mean? So I can't push her, put nothing before her for the simple fact that I was asked to honor her, and—[to unknown person] Go back out. [Door closes] [laughter].
And just to know that he stood through all that and that he knew what he was up against. And that just shows you that the person he was that he wasn't going to give up. I believe that God carried me this far so he's gonna keep carrying me. If I go and push my family and move away, then what was he gonna [inaudible] when God asked you to honor your family? God is family, God is love, so he was all about whatever made God happy. That would have kept him going thriving on his life. He wasn't caring what he was up against, or what I have to deal with and go through to be over here. He felt like all of those worth it. Because why? God is love, God is family. That's my family over there. I really feel like he carried on, he stayed here for family.
SOLIS: And, with those other incidents where he had been beaten and in jail, did he ever make any complaints—formal complaints to the jail or did the family ever make any complaints?
SOLIS: And what would that process look like and what would happen?
RESBY: He had a lawyer.
RESBY: So, if he—his lawyer couldn't get anything that shows you that—saying she's a part of—a lawyer is a part of the system, right? The justice system. If she couldn't get anything done after they sodomized him, that shows you no one but God can help this situation. Because why? I got a lawyer and y'all still couldn't help me.
SOLIS: So, he got a lawyer and made a formal complaint?
YOUNG: He actually had a lawyer at the present time and she came in and she took pictures and he was—when he came to that part of him, he didn't want to show her that part so she had a person that she was training to come in, which was a male, to come in, he felt more comfortable to showing him, but showing him what they had done to him. So, they had pictures, they had it documented, and the only thing about the judicial system is if they feel like you don't have family, you're in trouble. So, by my mom calling and coming and telling them no, you need to get somebody down here that can let me put eyes on my son, it's been two weeks, y'all saying he can't have a visit. They were hiding him out. So, Internal Affairs came in and put hands on him. They still wouldn't let her see him, but they did let her talk to him on the phone and he just—with a sigh of relief he thanked my mom a million times that she got somebody to pull him out of where he was. And it's just something that to me it seemed like something that happens on TV. You never in a million years think that you would be in this type of situation where this happened in a controlled environment where they have full control over everything that happens. It's just crazy.
SOLIS: And so, what happened with the complaint—the lawsuit that the lawyer was taking the photos for—Was that still ongoing?
YOUNG: No, what—in that instance, they had told my brother—it's a phrase they use, "snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches." That's what they told my brother, and they felt like by my mom calling, they labeled him as a snitch. So that call helped him at that present moment, but after they left that was a whole different story. So, once we were able to get him home he just decided, listen, for like six months he stayed in the house. He was like, I just don't want to deal with it. I'm just gonna stay on that side of town. But then that side of him kicked in again to like, you know, listen, my mama stayed, come back to this side of town, standing at the store, walking inside the store, police come out, grab him by his pants, throw him on the car. No reason at all.
SOLIS: And when you say, "they" labeled him as a snitch, again, are you referring to the people that work at the jail? I just want to be clear—
SOLIS: Okay. Wow. That's hard to hear. I can't even imagine what it's like to have to—
YOUNG: It's real hard, because I've always, like, from growing up as kids, you know, it was he had my back, I had his back and the thing that hit me so hard was is the fact that I couldn't be there to protect him or to help him. And that's what really, my struggle is because I've always felt like no matter what, if I had to come way across town, I'm coming, and he'd do the same thing for me. So, being that something was happening to my brother—I mean, just to imagine, you're on the phone and you know something is wrong, but there's nothing you can do about it. You just—so many thoughts going through your mind, like is he going make it home, how many people is it that's jumping on him? The main question to me was why. Why? I didn't—I've never gotten that question answered. Why?
SOLIS: And you mentioned that when he came home for six months he said—I forget the phrase you used, but—I just want to be away from everything. Do you—how was he impacted by these experiences of being targeted, beaten? Do you think it took a toll on him, mentally? Emotionally?
YOUNG: No, it just [crosstalk with Resby] Because he'd always say—he always called me the preacher, cause I always try to tell him stuff, and if he ever fell down I would try my best to encourage him. He just thought, I guess, praying more and then the more he prayed he felt like you know what, I don't have to stay from somewhere because if something is happening—We had a conversation New Year's night. We brought in New Year's at my aunt's house and he was just so excited about life. It's like you can see the glow. And he told us, when the clock hit twelve o'clock, he said, man, God blessed us all to be here. We haven't lost too many people in our family and we're all here. We're gonna love each other more this year, we're gonna get just fine, make up reasons just to have all the family in one place at one time. So, I just felt like I've never really seen my brother scared, never. The only time I've ever seen him scared is when he was coming out of that ordeal with them the first time and when they walked him to his cell on February the thirteenth. Those are the only two times I've ever seen him scared.
SOLIS: And I want to get to that day in a second. What year was that that you—about this gathering the family. You said it was New Year's Eve, was that—
YOUNG: That was this year.
SOLIS: Okay. And he was, you say he was loving life, excited about life, looking forward to the new year?
YOUNG: Yeah. He had a home that was given to him by a female companion and him and my husband were making plans to go and do some remodeling to the home to get it ready so they could start filling it up with the homeless people. And this—he was so excited about doing that. He wanted to start a business to where when people got their income tax—because, when income tax time comes all the car salesmen, they sell their cars triple the price they would normally be. So, he wanted to start purchasing cars so that he can sell cars that's affordable for people, so they can still not spend all their money on just a vehicle but they can take care of their family as well. So, he was making plans, even when he went to jail, that's what his conversation was when he was calling home. Make sure—my husband's name is BJ—make sure BJ ready to—we'll go knock these walls out and get—he was ready for whatever the year was going to bring for him. He was ready.
SOLIS: So, I want to talk about those days and weeks leading up to Vincent's death, but I want to make sure that you all are okay. If you want to take a little break, or get water—
YOUNG: I'm fine.
SOLIS: You okay?
RESBY: [To Nisha Young] You want to come take this spot? I'm gonna get y'all some water.
NISHA YOUNG: Okay.
SOLIS: Let's take a little two-minute break.
[TAPE 1 ENDS]
SOLIS: I'll wait till you get your shot ready to go. There you go. Yeah. Okay so we're back recording. We just took a little break. Melanie, I want to talk a little bit about the last time that Vincent went into Harris County Jail. And just to be clear, the other times that you mentioned where he'd been beat up or beaten by a guard, was that all in Harris County Jail or was that a different?
YOUNG: The same jail.
SOLIS: Okay, and that's the one downtown? Okay. Tell me about that last time he went in to jail. What happened? Was it [inaudible] and what were his feelings going in?
YOUNG: So, on the sixth of February, he called me and he wanted to play Spades. We had started a competition between myself, my husband, and his wife and at night once they finished they're day they'd either come over to our house and we'd play Spades or we'd go to their house and play Spades, and on the sixth he called me and he said, Yeah, come on over, we're gonna cook and we're gonna beat y'all in a game of Spades. And I said, well, Vincent, I'm tired right now. I've been ripping and running all day long and I think I'mma just chill out tonight, and he said, Well, I'mma stay up cause I have to go to court in the morning so I don't be late or I don't miss court. So he did. He stayed up all night and went to court on the seventh of February. They snatched his bond in court. Well, he had two cases that was pending against him, one was in misdemeanor court, one was in felony court. The misdemeanor court had actually given him a drug test prior—like maybe three months earlier, before he got the felony charge. They gave him a drug test the first day that they notified that they was putting him on this program so when he came to court on the seventh to felony court, felony court got upset with him because he was charged with a possession of a firearm, but the firearm was in someone else's car. The firearm was someone else's. The guy whose firearm and vehicle it was in fact brought a statement, affidavit to the court letting them know that it was in fact his weapon, so there shouldn't have been any charges pending against him. But when he went to talk to the magistrate, they told him, well, we'll give you a plea deal, we'll give you three months. He told them, no, I'm not taking time for something that I didn't do.
SOLIS: Two months in jail? In jail?
YOUNG: This was February the seventh when he went to court, and it was actually one of the clerks that got upset and she said, Well, hold on, and she picked up the phone and she seen that he had a case downstairs at misdemeanor court and she said, Well, didn't he have a bond for misdemeanor case down there, well we have him in felony court and I see that he had a dirty UA so we're gonna have you all to snatch his bond. And that's what they did, they snatched his bond, which is the reason why he was in custody that day. So, they took him to the back and he had his phone and he took a picture of his self and you could see two other inmates behind him and that was the last picture that he taken to show us that he was incarcerated. So that's what happened, why he was in there. Because they snatched his bond. Because he wouldn't sign for something that someone had already confessed to.
SOLIS: And did you talk to Vincent during that period of time where he was in jail on the phone or did you visit him or—
YOUNG: My sister-in-law called him—I mean, he called my sister in law and we did a three-way and I didn't say anything because he was asking her well, when were you gonna make the bond and she notified him that she was making the bond. Again, it took them three days to put him in the system, because they kept saying that they lost his paperwork so they couldn't put him in the system. So even though she kept trying to find ways to go around, them not putting him in the system, see if someone could post the bail for him, so that as soon as they post it, put him in the system, his bail would have already been made.
SOLIS: Okay. You said something a few minutes ago which caught my attention. You said that—you were talking about the only time you've ever really seen him scared was on the thirteenth, what were you referring to? Was there a video?
SOLIS: Can you talk a little about that?
YOUNG: February the 12th, well, I'll go back to the 11th. February the 11th, Vincent's wife tried to go and visit him because he wasn't calling. And normally he's gonna call a hundred times a hundred. He wasn't calling, so she tried to go and see him and she finally made it to see him. She telling that they had him isolated, that he just talked, he played with the baby at that visit. Moving forward to February the 12th when she went to see him, she couldn't see him, but it wasn't until his death that we were notified that he had actually been taken to Ben Taub hospital because they said that he had passed out because his blood pressure dropped to low. He made it to the hospital at 7:08 that morning, which was on the 12th, and they brought him back to the hallway on the 13th. It was a big time lapse from the 12th and him coming back, because he was released from the hospital at 8. From 8 o'clock on the 12th we didn't see him on camera, on film.
SOLIS: 8 PM?
YOUNG: Mm-hmm. We didn't see him come back on camera until February the 13th at 9:08 in the morning. They were leading him down the hallway, and he just—he had—the way he was walking—my brother has—you can read his emotions on his face real well. It was almost like a resistance for them to put him inside the cell. And that was one of the first times that I seen my brother scared. And I seen the way that he was walking he was—he had shackles on his hand, but he was holding his hand on his left side of his ribs like he was hurting. They went to take him inside of his cell and he assumed position, which is to lift your feet up so they can take off the restraints, and when he went to do that they pushed him inside of his cell and they went in with him.
SOLIS: And that was the last—
YOUNG: That was the last time I seen my brother alive.
SOLIS: When were you notified about—that he'd died?
YOUNG: They didn't notify the family until February the 14th. His death was on the 13th.
SOLIS: And how were you notified? I ask these questions because I don't really know this process, so I'm just curious about who calls you? Who from the—does the jail administration call you?
YOUNG: I don't—I got the call from my father. I don’t know who called him. I just remember he called me and told me that they said that your brother hung his self. I have seven brothers, so I was like, what do you mean? And he told me that they said my brother hung his self in jail.
SOLIS: What was your first reaction?
YOUNG: I didn't have a reaction. I just went into a blank space and I went into that blank space for thirty days. Because I knew it wasn't him. I needed to see him because I know my brother wouldn't do that to his self. It's nothing—it's nothing that he could be—he'd done time before. He's done seven, eight months before and he didn't kill his self. At worst if he would have took the plea bargain that they gave him it would have been only three months which would have been credit which would mean he would have in actuality only did thirty days in jail. He could do that standing on his head, so why would he hang his self?
SOLIS: So, you say you went to a blank space for thirty days. I can't even imagine what that's like.
YOUNG: You don't—I was moving, first of all I didn't sleep. I couldn't sleep. For thirty days, I couldn't sleep. It's just like I was coexisting. I was moving and I wasn't aware that I was moving. It took me a while before I knew it was thirty days had passed before I just snapped back into reality and was like, okay. That's when I picked up from—I went back to, okay, these conversations that we had, I went back to, okay, my brother said that this happened, they did it to him, he wouldn't hurt his self. And I believe in confirmation of things and we had an event for him and as I said earlier, so many people was coming up to me and telling me what my brother did for them. One lady was saying—she said, I know your brother didn't hang his self because I tried to kill myself and your brother was the one who talked me out of killing myself. And he told me that meant that you're stronger than that. In order to kill yourself, it's like saying that you don't have no fight in you. He taught me how to look past my circumstances and it's always gonna be another day, and each day go by stuff gonna get better. And she said, I'm still here because of that. So, I know he didn't hang his self.
SOLIS: How did your parents react?
YOUNG: My mom was actually—my mother's on dialysis—she was actually inside the hospital. I remember the only thing I kept thinking about was, I have to get to my mom. I have to tell my mom before somebody else tell her. Because they were like—Bonnie and Clyde. He was her world even though there's many more of us, they had a bonded relationship that was like no other. Somebody had already told her and I kept telling my family I need to tell her and they were saying well, just wait, cause she's supposed to have a surgery due to her kidneys that could have helped her. So they kept saying just wait till she come out of her surgery, but someone had already told her. And she called me and she said, where you at? And I said, why, what's wrong, Mama? And she said, what's going on? They're saying Vincent dead and he's supposed to be in jail. I couldn't tell her over the phone and I kept saying, Mama, where you at? And she said, I'm at the hospital but I'm asking you a question. And I said, well, Mama just tell me where you at. We all pulled up to the hospital and she was sitting outside at the bus stop and I guess when she seen all of us pulling up behind each other she just passed out. When she came to all she could do was scream his name, and it was—man, it's a feeling I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. That was her reason for fighting, that was her reason for going on, and now it's a battle because now I'm that strength and I have a family myself and it's like the weight of the world is on my shoulders so that I can't do nothing but keep going because I know that's what he'd want me to do.
SOLIS: How are your parents doing today?
YOUNG: It's a struggle every day. I have to call and talk to my mama every day to remind her, Well, Mama, he wouldn't want this. He wouldn't want you to give up. Because she wants to be with her—she wants to be with him. On the daily she tells me, You know I love all y'all, but the way they did my baby I don't even want to be in the world where they do people like this and then nothing is done about it. I have to on the daily encourage her, Mama, just don't give up. Just keep on going. Something is going to come out of this and my father—he's just—I've never seen him the way that I've seen him. Him and my brother are two and the same and to see him—he just bursts out and cry. He calls. It can be midnight and he's trying to figure, okay, well, what can we do to get something going? Let's come up with something. There is always something that we try to figure out how can we get something done because this is going on too frequently and there's nothing being done about it. We're aware of what goes on inside that jail, we're fully aware. So, when they're telling us that my brother hung his self, we know that that's a lie because he loved life. We know. A couple of us have been inside that same jail so we're familiar with the way the guards and the sheriff's officers treat people in there. And they know. The district attorney, she knows. Kim Ogg [Harris County District Attorney] she knows, how they—and there's just nothing being done about it and that hurts more knowing that something has happened to your loved one and there's nobody to do nothing about it. No matter how much you protest, no matter how much you rally. At the end of the day you still have to think about, Okay, even though we're doing all this foot work, at the end of the day, the prosecutor and the DAs, it's up for them to say, let's investigate more, let's convict somebody. And that happening is like finding a needle in a haystack because it doesn't happen when it comes to us.
SOLIS: I'm glad you mentioned—you talked on—you spoke on this because I'm curious about—I know that one of the news articles I read said that there were several investigations happening. Texas Rangers, District Attorneys, and so on. What are they telling the family? Are they—
YOUNG: They're not telling us nothing. Like I said, for the last six, seven months, we've had every door closed in our face. That're supposed to be helping us, or that can help us. We've had every door closed in our face and it's like they went and made this image to the fact of saying basically this was a menace to society because he has a criminal history, so we did the world a favor and we took one off the streets and we'll give you money for you—in place of your loved one but as far as real justice, we can't. We don't give that here. That's how they've come up to us. My father went and sat down with the District Attorney officer that was handling my brother's case, and my dad was pointing out some key factors, well a person that hung his self, how they wind up with a busted lip, a knot on their head, scratches, someone else's hair in their teeth? Her reply was, well, if one of my officers had hit him in his mouth, his mouth would have been worse than that. So, that kind of spoke volumes to me, for you to say that it's like y'all all aware of what's going on, y'all just choose not to do nothing about it.
SOLIS: And, I know that you and some other people and organizations organize protests pretty regularly. I attended one—that's where we met. Tell me about the protest and who's involved with helping organizing them and what do you hope to achieve by going out in front of the Justice Center and bringing attention to Vincent and his story? What do you hope to achieve?
YOUNG: Well, we organize with a guy named David from a big organization, a woman named Nicky. What our goal is when we go out here is not just to say that we want justice for my brother. It's to say that this could definitely happen to anybody else. Especially in this system. They were trying to be brutal and that's just how they operate. Our message, our hope is to get more attention for them to focus more on the Harris County jail and how they do their policies, their procedures. It's to focus more on them so that this doesn't keep happening. Because I'm—every time we go into a rally or a protest, I'm meeting families that have either been inside of there and they've been beaten themselves or assaulted, or they had a family member that died inside of it, the same jail. Or someone that was killed by an HPD officer and this is every time I go out there. And it's sad that at one point, it was seven of us out there. Seven different families from seven different backgrounds all my color, or either brown skinned. They were out there at one time asking for justice in front of the courthouse where they have the position and authority to get up somebody justice. And they just—they just do nothing. So our goal is to keep pushing until someone hears us enough to say, okay, something needs to definitely change.
If we just—I don't care if they eeny-meeny-miney-moe, as long as somebody gets justice, that will be a sign that something is changing because we're dying at a alarming rate and it's like nobody sees it because they do a good job of keeping it contained. On the last rally when I met you I received a phone call from a lady from Sheila Jackson Lee’s [US Representative from Texas’s 18th congressional district] office, and they wanted to meet with me right before the press conference and when I met with them they were trying to discourage me from rallying. They told me don't—you don't have to protest and rally to get justice, we can find another way to get you justice. Well, it don't have to be a circus show. And I was offended because here it is we've been out here—at that time, it was six months. We've called everybody we've emailed everybody we've been to every judicious system that we can think of and nobody offered us any kind of help. And because we're protesting and rallying you come and tell me not to? I was offended by that because all this time no one stepped up.
YOUNG: And I said well, if you're gonna help us, I appreciate you helping us but we're not going to stop marching, we're not going to stop rallying until something is done. And if us rallying and marching is a circus show to you, then I'm sorry. But to us, this is personal. This is the most painful thing that I've had to go through. And that's all I can do is fight.
SOLIS: What do you think happened to Vincent?
YOUNG: I believe that they choked him out. I don't know if they did it purposely or it was a accident, but I know that they killed my brother. I know that without a shadow of a doubt. I know that he—in the manner that they said he hung his self in is impossible. They said he stood up a little plastic bed up under a shower on a slippery surface with two hundred and fifty some pounds and he hung his self on there. It's impossible. It wouldn't hold his weight. It would fall on top of him.
SOLIS: Was Vincent a big guy?
YOUNG: Yeah, he was very big. [laughter] Vince, all he did was eat. He didn't work out.
SOLIS: Was he tall?
YOUNG: He was like, what, five eight? Mm-hmm.
SOLIS: What do you think—I know that you're outspoken about his case and you're speaking with us today, I know you've given some interviews to news, you're very public about this story, about the case. What do you think that we, the public, people who aren't impacted directly by this need to know about Vincent—about what happened to him, what do we need to take away from his story?
YOUNG: That it doesn't matter what your background is or where you come from or who you are. You still are a human being. And it doesn't matter what you did to land you in certain situations. Nobody has the right to play God and take anyone's life. And to be more hands on, if you have a family member that is incarcerated, check on them more. Make code words to where, if they're in danger or in trouble, that they can relay to you where you'll know to get something done. And to definitely be more passionate about what's going on in your neighborhood, because the more people that are aware, the more people that are made known of what's going on down here—it would start putting a light on them to where the other people that are inside of this jail system—the inmates—they'll start being more safe because now you have so many people looking at them that it's going to be almost impossible for them to beat someone without someone finding out about it. Or they're gonna be scared of the consequences of what's gonna come behind them. Because right now they have no consequences. Because they have a system to where, if you wear a badge, whatever they do they're gonna find a way to make it justifiable. And it's just like a child. If you raise a child and you let them do whatever they want to do without consequences, they're gonna keep going, they're gonna get worse and they're gonna keep doing more and more things because there are no consequences. Until you give them consequences, this stuff will calm down, it will stop. And you just have to not judge people. Because a lot of people feel like, okay, well, they in jail, apparently they did something to land in there, which is just being honest, so a lot of us has done things that we probably could have, should have very well be down there we just didn't get caught. So being that you have a family member in there, be more hands on. Call more. Make it to where they can contact you. Visit them more. If they have any kind of concerns, don't take that lightly. Listen. Because it very well could be the same situation. It could happen to anybody just like it happened to my brother.
SOLIS: Before I ask Nisha some questions, Melanie, is there anything that I didn't ask or that you didn't have an opportunity to say that you want to share with us?
YOUNG: I just want to touch bases on my brother has a total of seven kids and for a person to say someone hung their self, took their own life in whatever manner, and it not be the truth is real harsh because he has these seven kids that has always looked up to him as this hero, or as the fun dad or niece and nephews the fun uncle. I don't think it's fair for them to do that without a real investigation being done, which has not been done in this case. Because like you was asking earlier about the investigation, there has been no outside investigations which we was promised from the first meeting with Ed Gonzales [Sheriff of Harris County]. He said that it was gonna be three different organizations that was gonna come from the outside but upon speaking to the Texas Rangers and a couple of other organizations I was informed that Ed Gonzales didn't call them in until two weeks after my brother's death, so they wasn't able to do an independent investigation that they just were able to go in and make sure that they followed the code and handled everything by the steps that it says this is how you is supposed to do this that and the other. So, it was never any independent investigations which is why I say this happened in a controlled environment, where everything was controlled by the Harris County. As with the Harris County Jail, the District Attorney Office and the Harris County Forensic Science Office. All this operating under one judicious system that if one part of it looks like it's tainted, it's a domino effect. So, to make sure that doesn't happen, they do everything in house. [Inaudible] commit a crime, and you give me the authority to investigate myself, I'll be clean. I'm gonna make sure I do everything I do everything I need to do to come out clean. Because I'm investigating myself and I'm not gonna tell on myself.
SOLIS: Right. And you mentioned Vincent's children—how do you talk to them about what happened, especially since there's one narrative and then there's the narrative that the family—
YOUNG: Luckily, he only—he has one teenager that's here and she was the father's child. She's a daddy's child. And I just kind of try to tell her just remember the good times with your daddy and remember that he loved you, and just continue to do things the way that you—that he would want you to do. Make him proud. And I try to remind her or tell her that he's always gonna be present, even though you might not see him. He's always gonna be present cause first you have him in your heart. But you know, you can only give a person so many encouraging words because there's a void that's there that's missing and it was such a big void that was felt when he was here that now that he's gone those encouraging words sometimes fall on deaf ears because at the end of the day he's not here. There's no more laughter the way it was. There's no more family gatherings. I remember finding myself just going places because I knew my brother was going to be there. And it's the same way with his kids. And luckily the rest of his kids are fairly—two, three, and five—so they don't know that part yet. They don't see him but it's not as intense as it is with his fourteen-year-old.
SOLIS: Yeah. Thank you, Melanie. I really appreciate you sharing this with us and I hope that on our end just putting his story out there, making it available, helps you and your family by getting Vincent's story out there.
YOUNG: I just want to say one more thing. I think it's important to spend as much time with your loved ones, regardless to if you're not seeing eye to eye. Love more, forgive more, because at the end of the day when they're not here, I'd give anything just to have an argument with my bother. It's those types of things that you take for granted because even though we know as soon as we live, we're gonna die, but just—you don't think about that every day. I guess we sometimes get so caught up, we think that we're exempt or we just don't think about it. But I would urge people to love your family more, regardless to your differences. Let more roll off your back because when their gone, you'd be surprised what you wish you could—that moment you could spend with them even if it was the worst moment you ever had together, you wish that you could just do that one more time. So, I just encourage just love better. If you're going through something with your family, this person don't generally deal with that person, stop it. And just capture moments. Capture more time with your family because that's all that matters.
SOLIS: That's a really important message to hear because I know just speaking from my own experience, I get so caught up in work, I don't see my family—my family lives an hour away from me and I rarely see them. There's really no excuse for that.
SOLIS: There's no excuse for that.
YOUNG: See your family as much—all this is gonna be here after you gone. Somebody else is going to sit in your seat when you're gone, but as long as you're here, your family is here, they say people make time for the things that they love. And learn not to love what you do or anything else more than you love your loved ones, because that's time you can't get back. Nobody's gonna be able to fill your place with your family but they will with your job or anything else that you do.
SOLIS: It's true. Well, thank you Melanie.
YOUNG: Thank you.