It looked like a scene from the 1983 classic film, The Outsiders: More than 50 teens fighting in an IHOP parking lot in a West Texas town known as “Bomb City” in the late '90s. It was jocks vs. punks. Spikes and chains, police batons and baseball bats were the weapons of choice.
The punks were outnumbered by a “herd of beefy jocks milling around the parking lot,” as the Observer wrote in an Oct. 21, 1999, cover story about the incident, which would leave local punk musician Brian Deneke dead after Dustin Camp ran over him with a Cadillac.
Elise Thompson, who witnessed the murder from inside Camp's car, recalled Camp suddenly peeling out of the parking lot and hopping over a median to drive into the punks. She recalled later in Camp’s murder trial that Camp had said, “I’m a ninja in my Caddy” as he headed toward the punks.
"He came up behind [the punks],” she said. “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."
Deneke, though, didn’t get out of the way. Camp was eventually convicted of manslaughter, sentenced to 10 years probation and fined $10,000. The incident divided the community of Amarillo, haunting memories for years, and led two locals, Sheldon Chick and Jameson Brooks, to write a screenplay.
“The redeeming factor of this incident is the lesson of never judging a book by the cover,” says Chick, who received permission from Deneke’s parents to share their son’s story. “Brian was a good kid. He was an artist and a punk musician. He had goals; he had dreams. He was the punk that all the other kids wanted to be around.”
Brooks and Chick’s screenplay eventually led to a film called Bomb City. The project coalesced after they met the producer, Major Dodge, in late 2012 at a Christmas party thrown by Marc Colombo, a former Dallas Cowboy. Dodge says he remembered the incident when it occurred, even though he was a senior in high school in New Albany, Indiana, in the late '90s.
It had reminded him of the murder of Shanda Sharer, a 12-year-old who had attended Dodge’s junior high school in New Albany. Similar to Deneke’s murder, Sharer’s brutal murder grabbed the attention of national news outlets and Dr. Phil McGraw. She was tortured, sodomized and murdered by two peers, aged 15 and 17.
Brooks, Chick and Dodge began hanging out together in Dallas. They started a production company, called 3rd Identity, and began pitching the script in 2013 to investors in the Dallas and Fort Worth area. “The elevator pitch was ‘The Outsiders meets Friday Night Lights,’” Dodge says.
Directed by Brooks, Bomb City stars Dave Davis as Brian Deneke, Luke Shelton as Cody Cates (aka Dustin Camp) and Glenn Morshower as defense attorney Cameron Wilson. They filmed primarily in Dallas, but scenes in Fort Worth, Rockwall and Denton also appear.
“I read the script and instantly fell in love with it,” Davis says. “It’s so beautifully written.”
Davis was friends with the co-producer of the film, Isaiah LaBorde, who wanted him to read for another role, but he was determined to land the role of Deneke. So he took some toothpaste and asked his brother to help him spike his hair into a mohawk. Then he grabbed his skateboard and headed toward Hollywood Hills to make a video of him skateboarding and show that he knew how to skate.
Davis was filming another movie called Dark Meridian in New Orleans when he received the call that he landed the part. “The movie ended up being one of the most important things I’d ever done artistically and as a person,” he says.
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Deneke’s family and friends also appear in the film. His brother Jason shows up in the opening scene when the character of Brian Deneke is first introduced returning to Amarillo, a small conservative city locals call “Bomb City” because of a nuclear manufacturing plant.
“If you think about the bomb, it is a mixture that is harmless on its own,” Dodge says. “But with a spark, it becomes lethal,” similar to the situation that led to 19-year-old Deneke’s death in the late '90s.
They recently submitted the film to several film festivals and plan to release it in 2017.
Visit the film’s website at bombcityfilm.com for more information and a chance to win tickets to the red carpet premiere.