Sudden Impact

What could be safer than dropping your kid off at the movies? A lot of things, as it turns out.

The large crowds at AMC First Colony aren't unique, King says, and similar groups of teens congregate at suburban theaters across the country. "There are a lot of teens, and we recognize that at any large area, problems can arise. It's a priority for us to maintain a safe environment."

"I have fun [at AMC], but it's pretty much a lack of options," says Briscoe Junior High School student Ellen (not her real name), whose parents dropped her off from Rosenberg. Most times she does find a movie to watch, but warns that "if it's not attention-grabbing," she'll walk out and go back to socializing.

Freshmen Allison, who goes to a private school, and Hannah, who attends Clements High School, say they always watch the movie, but still will do some socializing before it starts. They get dropped off and have to call their parents as soon as the movie's over.

Maurice Canty and Yolanda Conner-Canty, Fred's 
stepfather and mother, with their daughter Mauronda.
Daniel Kramer
Maurice Canty and Yolanda Conner-Canty, Fred's stepfather and mother, with their daughter Mauronda.
Maurice Canty and Yolanda Conner-Canty, Fred's 
stepfather and mother, with their daughter Mauronda.
Daniel Kramer
Maurice Canty and Yolanda Conner-Canty, Fred's stepfather and mother, with their daughter Mauronda.

A month and a half after Fred's death, police report the arrest of another 15-year-old boy for firing a shot at a group of kids in the theater parking lot in what appears to have been a botched drug deal. No one was hurt and the teen sped off with an older driver and was later arrested. Since then, security has been stepped up significantly. King would not comment on specific procedures such as the number of police, and local theater managers are barred from talking to the media, but a recent night found seven police officers patrolling the entire theater premises.

A review of Sugar Land Police Department records for the AMC theater reveals that between January 2003 and April 2004 there were two assaults, 14 car burglaries, six instances of disorderly conduct, seven drug violations, two cases of public intoxication, three robberies, five stolen cars and one ticket for indecent exposure.

Sitting on a bicycle in the parking lot on a quieter evening was Officer Mark Floyd, a 21-year-veteran of the Sugar Land Police Department. Floyd says he's surprised by kids complaining they have nothing to do. "There's a lot more to do here than in a lot of places," he says, but he adds that they used to do the same thing when he went to high school at Dulles.

"We rode horses and roped calves," he says, but also hung out at the only movie theater, a defunct spot over on State Highway 90. They'd go there even when they didn't expect to like the movie. "I remember my mom telling me I wouldn't like [All the President's Men], but saying, 'I'm going anyways.' "

While the officers may have scared off some trouble -- Casey and his friends are nowhere to be seen on this recent visit -- most visitors say they enjoy the extra security, even if they've never needed it.

"We've never had any trouble," says 62-year-old Sylvia Farmer, leaving The Alamo with her husband. "We feel like it's our home theater." The Farmers say that while they notice the large groups of teens and visit the theater about twice a month, they've never been bothered, either by noise in the theater or otherwise, but she confides, "Honestly, we don't go to the teenage movies."

Even teens can appreciate the extra security, like Ruben, a wiry 16-year-old sophomore at Hightower High School. That way he knows no one is going to mess with him. Also a weekly regular at the theater, he adds that the largest fights occur when a big-budget release like Bad Boys 2 or 2 Fast 2 Furious comes out. "The most times is when a good new release come out and there's a lot" of people.

But he finishes with the same familiar complaint, the reason he's stuck hanging out and meeting girls at the theater: "There's just really nothing. You can't go to clubs or anything. This is the next best thing."

Fred's death "was not accidental," says Yolanda Conner-Canty, his mother. "That was not. That boy murdered my child. That's all I have to say, he murdered my child. And until I see some justice, I ain't gonna be able to live right, I ain't gonna never be able to sleep till I see some justice."

Much of the feud between Fred and Roderick remains shrouded in a fog of grief and anger -- a combination of protective parents, the sometimes impenetrable code of young teens and actual family law code that withholds details because of the teens' ages. As some witnesses were being interviewed, one father whisked his child away as soon as the subject turned to details of the fight. Fred's family is still contemplating the possibility of a civil lawsuit.

Fred's family accuses Roderick of using some of sort of weapon, such as brass knuckles -- yet the assistant district attorney says they found no evidence to support that claim. Roderick, who admits that he's been in fights before, says Fred pepper-sprayed him last Halloween in an attack over the same girl. Fred's family denies that, arguing that he was home passing out candy.

"If I woulda known about Mace…please!" says Conner-Canty. "I woulda went to his parents and Fred woulda been punished till next year."

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