Monday, December 1, 2008

When the Sunshine is Gone -- A My Town Monday Post

Each town has its cliques those who don't get along
and then there's towns I know where certain kids just don't belong
so know your rivals and watch your back
'cause no one's gonna be there when the enemy attacks

When the justice eludes you it's the fortunes of war wouldn't things be different had the tables been turned? If the people won't protect you you must fend for yourself when the justice eludes you it's the fortunes of war

You drove right over him and then you sped away how does it feel to kill and know you didn't pay? So walk away even though a life is gone someday, you'll know the price when god repays you for your wrongs

Those are lyrics to a song titled Fortunes of War by the Dropkick Murphys.

They were written about and were dedicated to the memory of a young man named Brian Deneke.

Brian was murdered December 12th, 1997. He was nineteen years old. He was killed in my town -- Amarillo, Texas.

His untimely death was featured on 20/20, Leeza, Dateline NBC, and an MTV documentary. An entire sub culture rallied around Brian's memory, and along with the television shows, labeled Amarillo as a den of intolerance.

Brian was a punk rocker. His killer a jock. And on that cold icy December night, the two, along with their friends, were fighting for no reason other than the differences in their lifestyle.

The argument started in an IHOP parking lot and then moved across to an empty mall parking lot. That is where, according to eyewitness testimony from the trial, Dustin Camp deliberately aimed his Cadillac at Brian and ran him down, saying "I'm a ninja in my Caddy" as he did so. The backseat passenger that testified, also claimed that Brian was holding a black stick.

Both sides acknowledge that they were fighting. As to who started the brawl, which by all accounts involved nightsticks, bats, and chains, varies according to sides. Regardless, every last person at the scene made bad decisions. Both sides had been drinking, and nothing good can come from a parking lot brawl, so it's a shame that neither side found the strength to walk away that night.

The sad thing is that something as superficial as looks and lifestyle choices resulted in a young person's death. A young person that was more than his studded leather jacket, homemade tattoos, and spiked mohawk hair.

Brian was a punk rocker. He was also a Boy Scout, a Kwahadi Indian Dancer, some one's son, a friend to many, a skateboarder, and a young man that others called Sunshine.

The resulting trial creating much resentment. The defense team held up Brian's clothes as if to say no respectable citizen would wear such. They brought Brian's former Boy Scout leader to the stand and had him speak about kicking Brian out of the troop for bringing his skateboard to meetings. They trumpeted Brian as an All-American kid who did what he had to after being attacked by a band of thugs, criminal and street urchins. His football coach testified to Brian's character.

The court did not allow evidence of Dustin's original testimony that Brian slipped on the ice and fell under his 1983 Cadillac and that he braked to avoid hitting the other boy. Testimony that proved Dustin was lying about that night since he later admitted to aiming his car for Brian and there were no skid marks or evidence that Dustin ever hit the brakes.

Dustin was 17 when he ran down Brian. In august of 1999 the trial finally commenced and when the the smoke cleared Dustin Camp was convicted of manslaughter. He received 10 years probation and a probated fine of $10,000 for the taking of a human life.

Questions were raised. Would the punishment have been as light had the fates been reversed? Had Dustin's clean cut appearance and all-American boy virtues bought him leniency? Had the jury not been as sympathetic because the victim did not look like the boy next door?

Was Amarillo a bigoted den of intolerance?

Those are question I can't answer, but as a lifelong citizen of Amarillo I will say the vast majority of people that live hear are good, decent, hardworking people. I would call them reluctant more than intolerant. They are reluctant to accept change, or outsiders. Reluctant to relinquish their conservative values.

Brian's murder and the resulting trial are not one of the cities better moments, but I do not believe it is fair to label the entire town for the mistakes of a few.

A year and a half after his conviction Dustin Camp was arrested on multiple charges including minor in possession and evading arrest. his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to 8 years in prison. I believe he has since been released even though his eight years would go through next year.

I did not know Brian, though I have met his father. As a father myself I grieve for him and his family's loss as I can not imagine the pain this crime has caused for them. I look forward to the day when all humans start treating each other humanely.

Brian Deneke (1978-1997)

Links to other My Town Monday posts.

PreTzel - West Bend, Iowa
Lyzzydee - Welwyn garden City, England
Sex Scenes at Starbucks - Winter Park, Colorado
Debra - village of Peninsula, Ohio
Chris - Hong Kong, China
Barbara Martin - Toronto, Canada
Mary - Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Barrie Summy - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Chuck - Kentucky
Nan Higginson - New York City, New York
Patti Abbott - Ann Arbor, Michigan
J Winter - Cincinnati, Ohio
Cloudia - Waikiki, Hawaii
Rebecca - Groom, Texas


Miladysa said...

"I look forward to the day when all humans start treating each other humanely."


lyzzydee said...

How sad, I worry all the time about this sort of thi, you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and thats it. It really doesn't matter what we look like we need to be understanding and accepting of others. Recently your posts have bought tears to my eyes and this one is no different.
Mine will go up at midnight, we are still in Sunday here.

preTzel said...

What a sad and eye - opening MTM post Travis. Differences aren't tolerated by so many and my family (parents/sibs) are so close - minded it's pathetic. I hope your post opens eyes.

My post is up and it is a revisit with some pictures you asked me to dig out. :)

Vodka Mom said...

that just broke my heart.

Travis' Wife said...

We raise our boys up around many different people. Hate is one of the bad words we do not use at our house, and stupid is another. We should hate no one and no one is stupid.

Our boys are raised around a colorful group of people, I think it is important that they are raised in love for all and tolerance for things we do not understand.

Everyone has a Mommy and Daddy and they worry the same for their children as everyone else worries for theirs.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

What a wonderfully handsome young man.

I count myself among the punk rockers. I'm not hardcore, but I love that music above all else. To think that someone died because they express their love for their music in their clothes and hair is ridiculous.

I think I'll write a mytown monday. :D

debra said...

My post is up, Travis. I'll be back to read :-)

Sepiru Chris said...

My post is also up; be back later to read.

Rick said...

Hello Travis. There is a grim truth in this story. I live on the edge of Detroit, and I'm afraid these things are all too commonplace here. Hopefully the world's going to take a turn for the better some day.

Tee said...

I'll second (or third) what Miladysa said.

@ Travis' wife - We have 2 boys and "hate" and "stupid" are both off limits in our house, too. I wish more people thought those words deserve as much weight as some 4 letter words.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's so hard to understand why a person's appearance can enrage someone else. If it wasn't this poor kid, it would have been someone else.

Angie Ledbetter said...

How sad to lose such a young handsome guy. He looks like my middle son a little. He's 18, just made Eagle Scout, and seeks out ways to be individual and different from the crowd too. How Brian's parents must mourn.

Thanks for reminding us of what's important in all our towns: acceptance & tolerance, as well as values.

Barbara Martin said...

Travis, thank you for a touching post about human values that should be honoured for everyone.

My post will be up near midnight.

Nicole said...

I'm glad you wrote about Brian. It's good to be reminded about that very sad story, but to remember we are all different, but need to be treated equally. I knew Brian, we were in the same class at Tascosa. I remember him being a very nice, quiet guy. I also knew the older brother of the guy who ran him over, he was in our class. It's so sad to see at times how little people hold life precious, as it should be.

Jenn Jilks said...

It is simply, man's inhumanity against man. I wrote, in 1992, about violence against women. Violence is a frightening prospect.

All you can do is move on. Try to make a difference, if you can, and make sense of the world. What makes sense are the wonderful people who can respond, with dignity, to such horrific and traumatic events.

Mary said...

My post it up.

We need to remember we are all a part of the human race. Those who act better than others simply do not have a clue concerning humanity.

Thank you for sharing yet another incredible story.

Josh said...

incredible post man

Lana Gramlich said...

A sad story, of course. I think the 2 biggest influences were probably the young ages of those involved & the alcohol. Add the difference in lifestyle & you have an unfortunate recipe for disaster. I don't understand the world anymore, & sometimes I'm perfectly okay with that.

Phats said...

This is kind of a sad My Town Monday, but thanks for sharing it.

Hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving!

Charles Gramlich said...

One life destroyed, and many others damaged. All for some hair color and some threads. Ridiculous.

the walking man said...

How many times will this scenario play out until there is no steam left to propel the hate for beautiful differences?

Barrie said...

Oh, how very very sad. I have a 19 year old. And he's young. Way to young to be done with life. Actually, your post sparked a discussion here. Thanks.

Oh yeah, and MTM post is up.

chuckmccky said...

My MTM for 12/1 is up:

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's up. Thanks, Patti

spyscribbler said...

Wow, I hadn't heard that story. Intolerance is a terrible, terrible thing.

Clare2e said...

It's a sad story, and the sentence...hard to fathom. I like that you call some residents reluctant, not intolerant. Sometimes it's easy to label someone as hateful when they're just comfortable in their own ways and not eager to branch out, which I wouldn't want anyone required to do any more than I'd want someone unconventional to be forced to conform.

At the ages of the young men involved, sometimes people are looking for trouble anyway, and the superficial differences just create an excuse, a way to target US vs. THEM, but someone's head was gonna get busted. Whose it is doesn't always matter that much to the idiot with drunken violence in his veins.

Nan Higginson said...

Closed minds. I'm afraid there is no cure. At least none you can clear up by swallowing a pill.

SUV Mama said...

Your most poignant MTM yet.

Bina said...

My God Travis. That story makes me so freaking mad and sad and hurts me really bad. That camp boy still doesn't have what he deserves even though he is in prison for 8 years.

And I'm thinking, my son had a hit and run; he didn't show up for one probation and he gets two years in prison. This boy maliciously kills someone and originally get 8 years probation????? Where is the justice????

huddlekay said...

When I was in high school, I owned a leather jacket, I wore safety pins in my ears and I envy Brian's mohawk.

I've never been in jail. I'm a college graduate,and I hold a steady job.

When I heard Brian's story, then and now, it enrages me. I think of all the friends who helped me make it through high school (to me high school was the equivalent of hell on earth) and it makes me sad, that the people who have the courage to be themselves, to not constantly worry about the constraints that society and the media place on us are punished for others insecurities.

Rest in Peace, Brian

Terrie Farley Moran said...

So much unnecessary violence in this world. It hurts us all. May Brian rest in peace and may his family know that many in the world mourn with them.


Linda McLaughlin said...

What a sad story, Travis. Will people ever get beyond this kind of intolerance?


Cloudia said...

Travis: I write to express what I cannot repress. Advocacy, pursuasion; "please SEE the truth here as I see it - or teach me better." I feel an obligation to help folks understand what they hate and fear (I was an advocate for at-risk kids. Can you say "stigma?")
Anyway, your post SAID IT ALL. Simply. Comprehensively. Bravo.

You my friend are a WRITER. I felt relief that someone
else had written it so well. I don;t have to do it this time. As for My Town Mondays: we love it, but love you more. You have nurtured so many of us. We want you to care for your inner writer who needs to ruminate. Post when you are able and we'll be here reading it. Let's keep this a web party - never an onerous obligation. go play now! aloha ;-)

Bubblewench said...

Amazing post. Very sad, I remember when that happened.