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