Thursday, March 24, 2005

Brian Deneke

Those from Amarillo may wonder why I put up his name. This is what comes to mind when I think of pointless teenage violence. The recent school shooting has brought back memories of Amarillo in the late 90s. I didn't have to deal with all the pointless teenage bullshit as much as my other public school friends since I went to Catholic school. Many of the people at my school were Brian's friends, no "white hats" (or "jocks") there.

Here is the story to those who haven't heard it:

Born in 1978 at the height of the British punk movement, Brian Deneke at least looked like what could be generalized as punk. He was only one of a small faction that carried on the style.

At around 11:30 on the night of December 12th, 1997, in Amarillo, Texas, Brian Deneke was killed in the parking lot of a shopping center by Dustin Camp. At the time, Camp was a seventeen year old junior varsity football player driving a 1983 Cadillac.

A timeline of the events leading up to Brian's death were pure high school rivalry gone very, very wrong. The two groups, the punk kids and the kids locally referred to as 'whitehats'(because they wore white caps with college football team logos on them,) were fighting because they looked and acted different from one another.

There are two different accounts of what would later turn into a homicide. Chris Oles, a friend of Deneke's, says the 'jock' group was taunting him while he and others were at a local hangout, an International House of Pancakes.

Justin Devore claims that Oles was turning up the heat by lifting up his shirt to show a knife handle. Oles denies this.

The argument became nastier when two boys who did not know each other - Dustin Camp and John King - got into a shoving match. Oles tried to step in, grabbing King in a headlock while Camp hurried out the door.

Outside, both boys gathered up friends to back them up. King apparently said something to Camp - we do not know what - and then smashed one of his car windows with a police baton.

Rumors of planned brawl between the 'punks' and the 'whitehats' drifted around for the next several days, coming to fruition a week later. On Friday, December twelfth, Elise Thompson, then 16, was hanging around town with a friend, Rob Mansfield. Sometime during the night, she and Mansfield ended up with Dustin Camp, aimlessly looking for something to do.

At around eleven that evening, kids from both groups found their way to the IHOP, some hoping to see a fight, some hoping to break up the monotony of a Friday night in Amarillo.

Elise Thompson would later say, "...fights never materialized. One side would show up, and everyone gathered in the parking lot, and you got to see all of your friends. It was just a big, fun social event, and that's what I thought was gonna happen."

A witness to the murder and a friend of Deneke's, Jacqui Balderaz, remembers, "We were all drinking and stuff, and it was kind of stupid to go up there." (Deneke's autopsy would discover a .18 blood alcohol level.)

Thompson went inside the IHOP to visit with friends, and some time later, Mansfield came in and told her they had to leave. In the parking lot, the arguing had begun. Within minutes it moved across the street to a shopping center. That is where things began to get ugly.

Camp, instead of driving away with Thompson and Mansfield, followed the fight to the shopping center. From there, the story splits.

Chris Oles, John King, Jason Deneke, (Brian's brother,) and Jacqui Balderaz say they saw Brian curled in the fetal position, while the 'whitehats' kicked and beat him.

The other side says that there was someone on the ground...but it was not Brian Deneke.

Thompson called the scene, "...crazy. I mean, I'd never seen anything like that. To me, it just looked like this mass confusion of people, just running after each other, hitting each other with sticks and chains and bats...Then Rob [Mansfield] says, "Oh, my gosh, look at Andrew [McCulloch, a friend of Mansfield's]."

According to Elise, Rob went to get out of the car, but Camp slammed on the gas, taking off. He slammed the Cadillac into Chris Oles, who shook it off and seemed unhurt.

Then, Thompson says, Camp turned the car around and headed back into the crowd. There was the thud of Deneke's body striking metal, and Thompson saw him disappear beneath the car.

There were no skid marks, or any other signs, that Camp had tried to stop the car.

As a parting shot, witnesses remember Camp saying, "I'll bet he liked that."

Deneke's girlfriend, Jennifer Hix, told a reporter what she saw the night of the murder. "I remember after he was hit, there was a cheer. We ran to him as soon as he went down. He was trying to talk, but there was too much blood coming out of his mouth. Jason put his arms around him and held him while he died."

Chris Oles also remembers the cheer. Hix recalls, "All these Christian people were, like, saying prayers, and I said, man, he's fucking dead. He's dead, he's dead, he's dead."

Brian was lying in the snow, wrapped in his brother's arms and surrounded by his friends, when he died. Photographs of the crime scene show him on his side, his arms twisted. His front teeth are broken, the left side of his face gashed. His left shoulder has been torn from its socket. An autopsy showed that Deneke's skull, spine, pelvis, and ribs had been completely crushed.

His mother, Betty Deneke, was hanging up Christmas decorations when Jason called, in tears. She arrived at the Western Plaza shopping center to see her nineteen year old son covered by a sheet of plastic, blood staining the snow where he lay.

In the meantime, Dustin Camp had dropped Mansfield and Thompson off at their homes. The two woke their parents and poured out the story of Deneke's death. Rob Mansfield and Elisa Thompson were taken to the police department and gave statements.

Dustin Camp also went home and told his parents what had happened. They simply told him to go to would be taken care of in the morning.

The Amarillo Police Department beat the Camps to the punch. He was arrested early the next morning. A search warrant executed on the Cadillace revealed Brian Deneke's blood, splashed on the undercarriage.

Dustin Camp was charged with murder.

During the trial, witnesses held up the clothes Brian had been wearing, as if to prove he deserved to die because of his appearance, and vouched for Dustin Camp's integrity...describing him as a 'good kid'. Defense attorneys called Deneke and his friends goons, sociopaths, and thugs. He repeatedly stressed how all-American and 'normal' the defendant was.

The tactic of dehumanizing and humiliating the victim worked. The jury convicted Camp of manslaughter. He was sentenced to ten years' probation and a ten thousand dollar fine, also probated. Dustin Camp would never have to pay a dime for killing Brian Deneke.

Mike Deneke, Brian's father, says his son often dealt with discrimination. "He took a lot of verbal and physical abuse from people. We tried to explain to him that if you dress that way, have your hair that way, people are going to act negatively toward you, and that's just the way it is.

"And he said it's not right, they shouldn't. And he's right, they shouldn't. But they do."

In June of 2000, a jury awarded the Deneke family

twenty thousand dollars in a wrongful death suit against Dustin Camp.

Camp remains free on probation.

Sad and pointless... I think that Dustin Camp was finally arrested for breaking probation. I'd have to look into that though.

Jeffrey Weise was definatly a troubled individual. I can't imagine why anyone would commit such a horrible act. Maybe I should be thinking of Columbine instead of Deneke and Camp. But the situation at IHOP parking lot off of Weastern just sticks out in my mind. It was both close to home, and it showed the "good" kid commiting the crime.

I'm sure I had more to write about this in the beginning, but it seems that several computers have decided to crash at once in the damned lab. I am no computer expert, and the only person working here today!

I'll try to write more on this later after I've finished dealing with this chaos:)


Jessica said...

That sucks cause I knew Brian(the guy killed) Yeah, "the good kid" often gets off for crimes they commit.

el said...

I think that Deneke and Camp, Columbine, and this recent shooting should really show that there is a problem with how we treat our young.

I went to public school in middle school, and I remember it being a horrible experience... until I met Jess. Anyway, I was a loner that people tryed to "save". I didn't need to be saved! I came from a small town to a city... my thick east Texas accent didn't make me popular.

All I wanted was not to be made fun of and some people to hang out with. The school was so packed, and everyone already had developed their groups... the adults seemed to incourage them as well!

Ahh... but then a few years later I was a Catholic school lead cheerleader. Isn't life funny:)

Unknown said...

Dustin Camp should have gotten life without the possibility of parole! But leave it to Texas to let a person get away with murder because they come from "a good Christian family ".like the fact that Dustin Camp being Christian gave him a right to play God!

Savanah Dahlsten said...

Dustin Camp broke parole served 8 years for violating parole was set free in 2006. The family should have gotten more than 20,000 dollars for wrongful death. Dustin Camp shouldn't be alive. Let alone free. Everyones life matters no matter what. Dustin Camp should be behind bars.