Punks, Jocks and Justice

There was a killing and now a conviction. Even those can't stop the fierce war raging between the Panhandle punks and athletes of Amarillo.

Outside, Oles met some allies, including Deneke. Meanwhile, King strolled to Camp's car and offered a few parting words.

Camp suddenly peeled out of the parking lot and hopped over a median, recalls Kendra Petitt, who had joined the punks. "He came up behind [the punks]. I'll never know how they moved -- it all happened so fast -- but they had to jump out of the way. He was trying to hit them. He had it floored. His tires were screeching."

Camp and King both displayed their predilections that night: Camp for playing chicken with punk pedestrians, King for picking fights with moving cars. Because as the jocks drove by, King busted Camp's window with his expandable police baton.

Elise Thompson, a friend of the jocks, surprised punks as the star state witness.
Mark Graham
Elise Thompson, a friend of the jocks, surprised punks as the star state witness.
Jason Deneke says he saw jocks beating his brother.
Mark Graham
Jason Deneke says he saw jocks beating his brother.

"Yes, ma'am," Elise Thompson says with her characteristic transparency, Deneke's death is all about prejudice.

She doesn't seem to realize that the jocks take great pains to deny this.

"I think it's just human nature," she says, pressing for understanding. "I think in all high schools across America there's the stereotypes, and in general high school kids are just really intolerant of differences."

So it was on the night of December 12, 1997. It was Friday, a week after the trash-talkin' incident at IHOP, and Thompson was hanging around with Rob Mansfield. They'd tried dating briefly, choked on their familiarity with each other, then quickly retreated to being best friends again.

That evening Thompson would tag along while he went out with his jock buddies. They "house-hopped," playing pool, talking, downing a few beers at the homes of friends. She mostly chatted with the girlfriends; back then, she never drank.

Thompson and Mansfield ended up in Dustin Camp's car. She didn't know Camp well, but he was a obviously a funny guy, forever cracking jokes. Good company for a typically boring Amarillo night.

In the background, of course, was talk of the big fight. So around 11 p.m., hoping to locate a livelier scene, the kids drifted in their cars to the rumored gathering place, the all-night IHOP, home of fluffy cheese blintzes and coffee-sipping punk rockers.

Brian Deneke's final hours are a bit of a haze. He and his buddies had spent the evening at home with Guinnesses. One kid would testify that Deneke had just a few beers, but his autopsy revealed a blood-alcohol level of .18, an amount that clearly would have got him arrested had he been driving.

The punks had also heard about the fight. Of course, those who'd been at the IHOP the previous week had some inkling there could be trouble. Blame it on Amarillo's perpetual state of inertia. They drove there anyway.

"We were all drinking and stuff," says Jacqui Balderaz, "and it was kind of stupid to go up there."

When Thompson and the others got to the IHOP, the lot was so full that Camp had to park his Cadillac next door.

They walked over and joined about 20 Tascosa kids who were hanging out, talking, running around giddily. Thompson switched on her "social bug" self. She could mix with the popular kids, even if she wasn't exactly one of them.

Leaving Mansfield and Camp with the guys, she went inside the restaurant to sit with some friends. Some minutes later Mansfield came in to retrieve her.

"We're leaving," he said.

That's when things started getting creepy. She stepped outside the restaurant, right into some kind of argument.

"There's this big guy who's the manager of IHOP, and he's standing with his head out the door, and he's yelling, 'Y'all get out of here, take this someplace else.'

"To my left, there's two or three of the punk people, for lack of a better word. There was this one punk guy who was really, really tall and scary-looking, and he's holding up one of those police sticks, and he's yelling at the group of people I knew in the parking lot.

"Then there's this little guy standing next to him, and I heard him say, 'We can take 'em. I know we can take 'em.' "

John King admits he "flicked open" his expandable police baton, then handed Chris Oles a baseball bat. Oles accepted it, because the punks -- all nine of them, including four girls -- were hugely outnumbered by the herd of beefy jocks milling around the parking lot.

Depending on who's telling the story, there were a total of 30, 50 or 100 kids there that night. Strange, then, that the jocks speak of the punks as though they were omnipresent, moving in packs with animal speed from fight to fight to fight.

Thompson felt relieved when Mansfield insisted they get into the car. She presumed they were easing out of a scene that was getting altogether too tense.

But almost as soon as they sat down, Camp saw everyone streaming across the street to the Western Plaza Shopping Center. Rather than drive away, he followed them.

The way the punks tell it, Brian Deneke was running across Western Avenue with waves of kids on foot and in cars following him.

Oles got stuck in the middle of the street on the median, and some jocks in a red Blazer nearly ran him down. John King got to smash out another window.

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Jocks are Americas scourge.They think they are above the law and are worshipped as all American by conservatives. They deserved to get shot when they messed with the wrong people in Colorado.

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