Old Western Plaza- Brian Deneke Story
Many people may not remember the painful story of the 19-year-old punk murdered in cold blood; he was killed simply because he was different.
Ever since Cain and Abel's bloody sibling rivalry, people have maintained prejudices and self-righteousness over others. Some would say mankind hasn't developed much since the times of the witch trials and public torture as our society continues to oppress that which doesn’t "fit the mold. "
In the late 1990’s there was a palpable prejudice against “punk rockers.” “Punk” was being looked down upon for how the fans dressed, the music they listened to, and how they accepted others. “Punk” was gaining popularity among teenagers and it was profoundly influencing those exposed, but it was so different from what had come before, it received a larger than expected backlash of resistance. Those who called themselves “Punk” became shunned and tortured, much like the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
The central character of this particular story of “Punk” oppression is an Amarillioan named Brian Deneke. Born in 1978 at the height of the British Punk movement, Deneke was part of a little group of fans subscribing to the “look” and behavior of a typical punk teenager of the day. His “peers” didn’t appreciate his differences and sought to punish him just for being who he was.
At around 11:30 p.m., the evening of December12th, 1997, Brian Deneke was slaughtered in the parking garage of the Westgate Mall by a fellow teenager, Dustin Camp. Camp was a JV football player and knew Deneke from school. There were two groups of teens there than night: the “Punks,” and the teens others knew as the “white hats.” These two groups were polar opposites of each other in how they acted and dressed.
There are multiple stories of that night but witnesses at the scene say that it started at the IHOP where you now sit. Chris Oles, a companion of Deneke's, says the 'joke' bunch (the “white hats”) were insulting Deneke while he and others were at the restaurant. Yelling insults turned to throwing punches before the groups took it outside and ultimately across the street to the mall.
The physical altercation continued in front of a gathering crowd of teenagers. Onlookers report that at one point, Deneke was seen in the fetal position, while the 'white hats' kicked and beat him. The scene was "...crazy. That is to say, I'd seen nothing like that. To me, it just resembled this mass disarray of individuals, simply pursuing one another, hitting each other with sticks and chains and bats," said one witness at the scene.
After the exchange, Camp returned to his vehicle, a 1983 Cadillac weighing approximately 4,000 pounds, and with friends in the car (who tried desperately to escape after seeing the look in Camp’s eyes) took aim at the group of “Punks.” Camp first struck Oles who appeared to shake off the blow without serious injury. Then Camp turned his headlights on Brian Deneke and gunned it. There was the crash of Deneke's body striking metal and he was seen vanishing underneath the vehicle. This account was later verified in the police investigation which showed Camp never attempted to stop or swerve the vehicle prior to impact. In fact, witnesses report hearing Camp say, “I’ll wager he enjoyed that,” and hearing the gathered crowd cheer.
Deneke's girlfriend and his brother, Jason, rushed to his side. There was a lot of blood and his body was crumpled but Jason put his arms around him and held him. Brian died in his brother’s arms while Jason kept saying over and over, “he's dead, he's dead, he’s dead."
Photos of the crime scene show him on his side, arms splayed at an unnatural position with his left shoulder torn from its socket. Deneke's skull, spine, pelvis, and ribs had been irreparably fractured in the vicious attack. He didn't stand a chance.
**you could totally end this story here for more spook effect**
The passengers in the car, still just teenagers at the time, went home and reported to their parents the events of the night. The police were immediately involved by the two passenger families but Dustin Camp’s family took a different approach and decided to wait until morning. With the heinous nature of the crime and the eye-witness accounts, the Amarillo Police Department took swift action and arrested Camp at his home just a few hours later even as his father tried to deceive the police as to his whereabouts. Dustin Camp, then just 17 years old, was arrested on one count of homicide.
This tragedy continues in the courtroom as witnesses attempted to defame Deneke’s character and, in particular, his choice of clothing implying that he “had it coming” while defense witnesses upheld Dustin Camp’s integrity as a “great child” and “all-American.” The defamation campaign used slanderous words calling Deneke and his friends hooligans, sociopaths, and thugs, further dehumanizing his death. Their strategy worked and although the jury found Camp guilty of murder, they sentenced him to just ten years' probation with a measly $10,000 fine.