Anarchy in Amarillo

Being a punk in the Panhandle was never easy. But when Brian Deneke crossed paths with an angry mob of football jocks, he never imagined it could get him killed.

"By now, the fighting is in full force," Thompson remembers. "There are just tons of people; everybody's going 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, horrible, horrible.

"Then Rob says, 'Oh my gosh, look at Andrew [McCulloch].'"

Their jock buddy was on the ground, getting hammered by armed punks. Rob opened the car door and stuck his foot out, thinking he'd help rescue his friend. But Camp hit the accelerator, and Rob quickly pulled the door shut.

Jennifer Hix and Jessica Jackson, aka "Spike," still grieve for Brian Deneke. With him gone, Amarillo's punk scene is virtually dead.
Mark Graham
Jennifer Hix and Jessica Jackson, aka "Spike," still grieve for Brian Deneke. With him gone, Amarillo's punk scene is virtually dead.
Jessica Jackson was present at an earlier altercation in which Camp supposedly played chicken in his car with several punk pedestrians.
Mark Graham
Jessica Jackson was present at an earlier altercation in which Camp supposedly played chicken in his car with several punk pedestrians.

Camp maneuvered his car toward the throng surrounding McCulloch. He took aim, pushed the pedal, and clunk -- that was Chris Oles' gangly frame rolling off his hood like a Panhandle tumbleweed.

Oles quickly got back on his feet; he seemed more shocked than anything.

"He just hits him, like, in the heinie," Elise says. "Then he starts driving around, through where the body of the fighting is. I remember things [chains and clubs] were being beaten on the car windows; it was really scary."

Then "just all of a sudden," Camp wheeled the car around, skipped a median, and headed straight for a punk who turned out to be Brian Deneke. "I'm a ninja in my Caddy," he blurted. Off to his side, away from the car's path, Elise saw the shape of another man. The two men were fighting each other, though she can't explain how, given the distance between the two.

"I realize, oh my gosh, we're heading directly for a human being."

She remembers a soft, sickening "thunk" on impact. And a freeze-frame of Deneke, stick in hand, looking directly at her, directly through her.

"I bet he liked that," Camp said soon afterward as he kept driving.

"Dustin was heading for the highway...and like from the moment we hit him till we got on the highway, it was complete silence. It seemed like forever. And then I started, like, freaking out, rocking back and forth and stuff, and just covering my face.

"Then I just started saying, 'Oh my God. Oh my God.' Over and over again. And then I was praying -- I was crying out to God, you know, like oh my God, help me please. And then I sat up and leaned into the front seat, and they were completely silent sitting there.

"I said, 'What if he's dead?' And no one said anything."

Memories of Brian Deneke's final moments are tattooed in the consciousness of everyone who witnessed them, even though the details don't always agree.

Chris Oles: "You know those low-rider cars? That's what it looked like. It just went over the top of him and bounced. You know what the scary thing was? After he ran over him, they all started cheering."

Jennifer Hix: "Blood was coming out of every hole in his head. He got...squished. There was blood, like, from his nose, ears, and mouth."

John King: "He was saying something, but I don't think anybody understood it. There was all of us surrounding him, and Jason [Brian's brother] was like holding him in his lap. There was blood everywhere -- tons of blood."

Hix: "I felt like I was in a movie or something, like it was fake. All these Christian people were, like, saying prayers, and I said man, he's fuckin' dead. He's dead he's dead he's dead."

Deneke's body lay in a patch of snow against the median Camp's car had jumped. The crime-scene photos show him lying on his left side, arms grotesquely askew. His mohawk is flopped to the side, like a wilted flower.

His front teeth are broken. A deep gash runs down the left side of his face. His left shoulder is ripped out of joint. An autopsy would reveal that his skull, spine, pelvis, and several ribs had been crushed.

None of the jocks stopped to see what happened, much less render aid.

In the days that followed Deneke's death, the punks would turn to one another, retreating into their close-knit community.

That's what happened, but no one can tell you much about it. "I stayed drunk for a long time," Hix says. "There would be cases of beer in our house every night."

When the kids emerged from their drunken trance, they gathered remembrances of Deneke's life. Some attached bits of Jason's bloody jeans to their leather jackets; others, such as Oles, tattooed the victim's name onto their arms. Later, Deneke's family and friends printed up T-shirts with Brian's face against a field of orange flames, with the words, "Brian Deneke: Hate Kills!!!" Another version -- more popular with the girls -- read, "Punk Angel -- Will You Be Mine?"

The loss hit hardest at the Deneke household. Mike and Betty Deneke had struggled to hold on to a relationship with their son as he ventured deeper into a lifestyle so utterly alien to their small-town Kansas upbringing. His music, to them, was noise. They didn't understand his fondness for blue hair, or some of the creepier friends who trooped through their house, or his disdain for school.

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