Brian Deneke

You don't get to choose how you're going to die, or when.

You can only decide how you're going to live now.

-Joan Baez

Since the days when Cain and Abel's sibling rivalry came to a bloody end, humans have made themselves known for their intolerance and narrow minds. Humanity hasn't evolved much since the days of witch trials and public torture. The world around us has become automated and mobile, while we stay the same.

We have managed to learn to walk upright, and communicate, and send men to the Moon, a place we once worshipped and held sacred. Still, we cannot seem to even begin to learn how to accept one another. In America, the majority definitely rules.

Somewhere along the way, something was invented that changed the face of the country...although not in such a noticeable way. Punk rock may not have been rocket science, or astrophysics, but it deeply affected a generation of kids. At the same time, 'punks' were being discriminated against for the way they looked, the music they listened to, and the way they believed. In some ways, it was no different from segregation, from the Salem Witch Trials that peaked in 1692.

Born in 1978 at the height of the British punk movement, Brian Deneke at least looked like what could be generalized as punk. He was only one of a small faction that carried on the style.

At around 11:30 on the night of December 12th, 1997, in Amarillo, Texas, Brian Deneke was killed in the parking lot of a shopping center by Dustin Camp. At the time, Camp was a seventeen year old junior varsity football player driving a 1983 Cadillac.

A timeline of the events leading up to Brian's death were pure high school rivalry gone very, very wrong. The two groups, the punk kids and the kids locally referred to as 'whitehats' (because they wore white caps with college football team logos on them,) were fighting because they looked and acted different from one another.

There are two different accounts of what would later turn into a homicide. Chris Oles, a friend of Deneke's, says the 'jock' group was taunting Deneke while he and others were at a local International House of Pancakes. Justin Devore claims that Oles was turning up the heat by lifting up his shirt to show a knife handle, a charge Oles denies.

The argument became nastier when two boys, Dustin Camp and John King, got into a shoving match. Oles tried to step in, grabbing King in a headlock while Camp hurried out the door.

Outside, both boys gathered friends to back them up. King allegedly insulted Camp - what was said is not known - and then smashed one of his car windows with a police baton.

Rumors of planned brawl between the 'punks' and the 'whitehats' drifted around for the next several days, coming to fruition a week later. On Friday, December twelfth, Elise Thompson, then 16, was hanging around town with a friend, Rob Mansfield. Sometime during the night, she and Mansfield ended up with Dustin Camp, aimlessly looking for something to do. By eleven that evening the trio, along with several other teens, found their way to the IHOP.

Elise Thompson would later say, "[Planned] fights never materialized. One side would show up, and everyone gathered in the parking lot, and you got to see all of your friends. It was just a big, fun social event, and that's what I thought was gonna happen."

Thompson went inside the IHOP to visit with friends, and some time later, Mansfield came in and told her they had to leave. An argument had broken out in the IHOP parking lot and was moving across the street to a shopping center.

A witness to the murder and a friend of Deneke's, Jacqui Balderaz, said in retrospect, "We were all drinking and stuff, and it was kind of stupid to go up there." (At autopsy, Deneke's was found to have a blood alcohol level of .18.)

Once outside the restaurant, Dustin Camp lingered and crossed the street to the parking lot of the shopping center. From here the story diverges.

Chris Oles, John King, Jason Deneke, (Brian's brother,) and Jacqui Balderaz say they saw Brian curled in the fetal position, while the 'whitehats' kicked and beat him. The other group says that there was someone on the ground, but it was not Brian Deneke.

Thompson called the scene, "...crazy. I mean, I'd never seen anything like that. To me, it just looked like this mass confusion of people, just running after each other, hitting each other with sticks and chains and bats."

According to Elise Thompson, she, Rob Mansfield, and Camp were sitting in Camp's car, in the shopping center parking lot. Mansfield attempted to get out of the car, but Camp slammed on the gas. The large, heavy vehicle struck Chris Oles, who seemed to shake off the blow.

Then, Thompson says, Camp turned the car around and headed back into the crowd. There was the thud of Deneke's body striking metal, and Thompson saw him disappear beneath the car. Upon police investigation no skid marks, or any other signs that Camp had tried to stop the car, were found.

As a parting shot, witnesses remember Camp saying, "I'll bet he liked that."

He then steered the car out of the parking lot and headed home.

Deneke's girlfriend, Jennifer Hix, told a reporter what she saw the night of the murder. "I remember after he was hit, there was a cheer. We ran to him as soon as he went down. He was trying to talk, but there was too much blood coming out of his mouth. Jason put his arms around him and held him while he died...All these Christian people were, like, saying prayers, and I said, man, he's fucking dead. He's dead, he's dead, he's dead."

Brian Deneke died in the snow, wrapped in his brother's arms and surrounded by his friends. Photographs of the crime scene show him on his side, arms akimbo, his left shoulder torn from its socket. An autopsy showed that Deneke's skull, spine, pelvis, and ribs had been completely crushed.

Deneke's mother, Betty, was hanging up Christmas decorations when Jason called in tears. She arrived at the Western Plaza shopping center to see her son covered by a sheet of plastic, blood staining the snow where he lay.

In the meantime, Dustin Camp had dropped Mansfield and Thompson off at their homes. The two woke their parents and poured out the story of Deneke's death, and were immediately taken to the police department to give statements. Camp also told his parents what had happened, but was allegedly told to go to bed, the situation would be taken care of in the morning.

The Amarillo Police Department beat the Camps to the punch. He was arrested early the next morning at his home. A search warrant executed on the Cadillace revealed Brian Deneke's blood splashed on the undercarriage.

Dustin Camp, seventeen, was charged with murder.

During the trial, witnesses held up the clothes Brian had been wearing, as if to prove he deserved to die because of his appearance, and vouched for Dustin Camp's integrity...describing him as a 'good kid'. Defense attorneys called Deneke and his friends goons, sociopaths, and thugs. He repeatedly stressed how all-American and 'normal' the defendant was.

The tactic of dehumanizing and humiliating the victim worked. The jury convicted Camp of manslaughter. He was sentenced to ten years' probation and a ten thousand dollar fine, also probated. However, in June of 2000 a jury awarded the Deneke family twenty thousand dollars in a wrongful death suit against filed against Camp.

A year later Dustin Camp, then twenty, was arrested for underage drinking. A party he was attending was busted, and Camp fled through a back door in an attempt to escape the police. The charges filed against him included being a minor in possession of alcohol and evading arrest, violating his probation on five separate points in all. An article from the Amarillo Globe News reads as follows:

Two of three cases stemming from Dustin Camp's violations of his probation for killing Brian Deneke with a Cadillac are now settled.

Camp was sentenced to eight years in prison on Sept. 7 for the violations, and now his brother David Camp has pleaded guilty to providing alcohol to his underage brother and hindering police as they tried to arrest Dustin Camp June 27.

David Camp, 24, pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanors Oct. 5, said Randall County Assistant District Attorney Cindi Evans.

The plea agreement called for David Camp to be supervised by probation authorities for one year. If he successfully completes that term, his record will not reflect the conviction. He also must pay a $300 fine and court costs.

Dustin Camp's probation violations, which resulted in the prison term, included consuming alcohol at his brother's home while still a minor and fleeing police.

A Potter County jury convicted Dustin Camp of manslaughter in August 1999 for running over Deneke during a melee involving "punks" and "preps" on Dec. 12, 1997, in the parking lot of Western Plaza. The sentence for that conviction was 10 years probation and a $10,000 fine.

The men's father, Michael Camp, faces a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement concerning Dustin's whereabouts when police responded to David Camp's home. That case is scheduled for trial Nov. 13, Evans said.

In March of 2002, Michael Camp pled no contest to false identification to a police officer. The charge will be dropped provided Camp successfully completes a sixty day adjudication and pays a one hundred dollar fine. Prosecutors say that on the night of the party, Camp had told police his son Dustin was not present at the party and had not been drinking alcohol.

Mike Deneke, Brian's father, says his son often dealt with discrimination. "He took a lot of verbal and physical abuse from people. We tried to explain to him that if you dress that way, have your hair that way, people are going to act negatively toward you, and that's just the way it is.

"And he said it's not right, they shouldn't. And he's right, they shouldn't. But they do."

The IHOP parking lot.

The mall parking lot where Brian Deneke was killed.

"We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us it's no use
Society's arms of control
Rise above we're gonna rise above
Think they're smart can't think for themselves
Rise above we're gonna rise above
Laugh at us behind our backs
I find satisfaction in what they lack
We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us it's no use
We are born with a chance
Rise above, we're gonna rise above
I am gonna have my chance."

- Black Flag/'Rise Above'/Damanged

"Fight our oppressors, not each other."

- Printed on t-shirt Brian Deneke was
wearing at the time of his death.