On May 16, 1967, Houston police blockaded the Texas Southern University campus in response to a student civil rights protest. By that evening, the social unrest escalated into an “Alamo-scale shootout,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Police fired an estimated 3,000 rounds into TSU’s Lanier Dormitory, where students were barricaded. Law enforcement raided the building in the early morning hours of May 17, arresting 488 students—the largest mass arrest in Houston history. Two police officers were wounded and another, rookie Louis Kuba, was killed. Local and national news agencies labeled the incident a riot, despite the reported absence of looting or destruction of property. A small group of students, known as the “TSU Five,” were indicted on charges of inciting a riot, assault, and murder. A judge ultimately dismissed the case due to insufficient evidence, believing that Kuba most likely died from a ricocheting police bullet.
Against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the TSU Riot highlighted the underlying racial resentment dividing Houston’s black community and predominantly white police force. The confrontation followed months of campus protests against the university administration, which local law enforcement often met with intimidation or increased surveillance. In the days leading up to the incident, student demonstrators turned their attention to Houston itself, protesting the city’s tendency to locate landfills in majority-black neighborhoods. With racial tensions remaining high following the TSU Riot, the Houston Police Department established its Community Relations Division in 1968 to sow good will and foster a more successful dialogue. Now “majority minority,” Houston possesses one of the most racially diverse police forces in the country.