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Death of Brian Deneke

On December 12, 1997, 19-year-old American punk musician Brian Theodore Deneke (March 9, 1978 – December 12, 1997) was killed in a deliberate hit and run attack in Amarillo, Texas, by 17-year-old Dustin Camp.

Brian Deneke
Brian Deneke.jpg
Deneke in a parade on Halloween
Brian Theodore Deneke

(1978-03-09)March 9, 1978
DiedDecember 12, 1997(1997-12-12) (aged 19)
Other namesSunshine
Parent(s)Mike and Betty Deneke

Camp was later found guilty of voluntary vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to ten years' probation. In 2001, he was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for a variety of parole violations. He was paroled under supervision on July 31, 2006.

The homicide and the outcome of the trial against Camp galvanized the punk community and raised accusations about the social tolerance of the Texan city.

Brian DenekeEdit

Brian Deneke was born in Wichita, Kansas,[1] the younger of two sons to Michael Max "Mike" Deneke and Elizabeth Louise "Betty" Bieker.[1] His father was a native of Beloit, Kansas, and was born to Sylvester and Darlene Deneke.[1] Betty Deneke was a native of Concordia, Kansas, and was born to Omer and Marie Bieker.[1] Mike Deneke and Betty Bieker married in 1974 in Concordia, and had two sons: Jason Michael and Brian Theodore. The family settled in southwest Amarillo, Texas from Wichita in winter 1981.[1]

Deneke was a dancer in a Boy Scouts troupe during elementary school. He attended Belmar Elementary, Paramount Terrace Elementary, Crockett Middle School, and Amarillo High School in Amarillo.[1] He dropped out of high school during his junior year, and earned his GED at age 17. Deneke was an artist for Stanley Marsh 3's art project, Dynamite Museum, which consisted of handmade mock road signs scattered across Amarillo city streets. Deneke was also the vocalist of punk rock group The White Slave Traders,[2] and aspired to become a famous punk rock musician.[3]

Deneke was remembered by his friends as being charismatic and seen as a leader in local punk circles, helping to organize many local musical events. Nicknamed "Sunshine", Deneke had a spiked mohawk hairstyle and often wore a black leather jacket with a studded leather collar and sported homemade tattoos. He was also an enthusiastic skateboarder, and it was this interest which drew him into the punk subculture.[4]

Like other punks in Amarillo, Deneke had suffered frequent harassment and bullying, and acquired nicknames such as "Punch" and "Fist Magnet" by tormenters.[3] His parents were against their son's lifestyle, and warned him of possible prejudice from people in Amarillo.[3]


The International House of Pancakes across the street from the Western Plaza Shopping Center was a popular hangout for youths in Amarillo, Texas.[3] On Saturday, December 6, 1997, a confrontation occurred at the IHOP involving Dustin Camp, an honor student and star football player for Tascosa High School in Amarillo, and John King, a member of the punk rock community. One witness, Kendra Petitt, claims that Camp hopped the median in his Cadillac as he tried to run the punks down in the parking lot, and that Camp missed and instead had his car window smashed by John King's police baton. Camp and friends denied this event ever happened. Tension and resentment from this confrontation lingered among the respective groups for the following week.[5]

After a night of heavy drinking on Friday, December 12, 1997, Dustin Camp and his companions returned to the Western Plaza Shopping Center at 11:00 p.m., anticipating a fight with members of the punk community. Violence soon broke out between jocks and punks outside of the IHOP restaurant. During the fight Dustin Camp retreated into his Cadillac; at first Camp appeared to drive away but then he sharply turned back, targeting Deneke by running him over. Camp's attorney would later argue that Camp returned to defend a fellow jock; however, this claim was denied by Deneke's companions.[6]

Trial of Dustin CampEdit

During Camp's murder trial, a passenger eyewitness testified that Camp exclaimed "I'm a Ninja in my Caddy!" as he targeted Deneke and then "I bet he liked that one!"[3][6][7][8][9] after he ran over Deneke as he sped away from the scene.

Dustin Camp was charged with first-degree murder; during his trial his defense claimed that he had acted in defense of a friend whom Deneke was attacking. Camp's defense attorney, Warren L. Clark, defended by trying to shift the blame on Deneke and the punk community.

Clark portrayed the punks as violent thugs and went as far as calling them "armed goons".[3][6] Defense attorney Clark used incidents from Deneke's past that made him look violent, and claimed that he was the aggressor on the night of his death.[3] The defense also claimed that witnesses for the prosecution were punks who lied under oath. In contrast to the punks, the defense characterized the alleged murderer as a wholesome and clean-cut youth. The defense emphasized Camp's normalcy, claiming Camp was a good Christian, a good Texan, and a football player.

The punks who testified consistently saw Deneke as the victim. One of Camp's companions, who was a passenger in his car, also incriminated him. She did not see him acting in defense of a third person and testified on the "Ninja in the Caddy" exclamations.[3]

Although Camp had been charged with murder, the jury only found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced him to ten years' probation and a $10,000 fine. Both Camp's attorney and the district attorney found this sentence to be uncommonly mild.[3]

The jury refused to comment after the trial, citing the welfare of the families. Alternate juror Wade Colvin said he was "completely surprised" that the jury did not convict Camp of murder and opted for a manslaughter conviction instead. "What stuck with me more than anything—I felt like Brian was running away and Dustin had a chance (to stop his car)," Colvin said.[9] He believed the jury gave Camp a second chance because of his youth. "I had those thoughts, too, about him being so young," Colvin said. "But he did wrong."

Camp's probation violationsEdit

In June 2001 Camp was apprehended for underage drinking and was arrested for being a minor in the possession of alcohol. Michael Camp, father of Dustin, attempted to cover for his son's probation violations. Michael Camp was formally charged with making false statements to the police. He was sentenced to 60 days' deferred adjudication (a type of probation) and a US$100 fine after a plea bargain.[10] In September 2001, Dustin Camp received an eight-year prison sentence for violating his probation. Dustin's brother David was also arrested during the June events. He served one year of probation for providing alcohol to minors and hindering police efforts to arrest Dustin Camp.[10]

In 2006 Dustin Camp was paroled under supervision until his sentence expired in 2009.[11]

Media coverage and significanceEdit

Deneke's funeral service was held at St. Mary's Catholic Church on December 16, 1997, in Amarillo.[1]

His death shook Amarillo and horrified the punk subculture: Punks in Amarillo reported that they had often been targets of abuse and harassment by jocks because of their differences, even before the incident; after the trial there was a general feeling that Camp walked free because he was seen as a "good kid"—unlike the punks.[3] The lenient sentence for Camp caused a public outcry in Amarillo and incited a debate on whether the city was a tolerant place.[6] The mayor of Amarillo, Kel Seliger, attempted to distance the town from the verdict. "It was not a community verdict," he said, "it was 12 people." Nonetheless, the murder trial had prompted the mayor to emphasize tolerance for differences and mutual respect. Deneke's father was unsurprised by the lenient verdict: "Quite honestly," Deneke's father said, "we had been prepared for that. If you pay attention to what happens in the criminal justice system, it's not unusual".[9]

National television and radio paid attention to the case in 1999 and 2000 being featured on Leeza, Dateline NBC, 20/20,[12][13] NPR,[14][15] and in an MTV documentary, Criminal "Punks vs Preps".[16][17]

The widely syndicated City Confidential episode "Amarillo, TX: High School Hit & Run" in 2005 reinforced interest in the case. In 2000, musician Marilyn Manson discussed the Deneke case at the Disinfo conference while addressing the issue of the causes of youth violence.[18]

The conflict between jocks and punks in Amarillo has been compared to the widespread social divisions in Columbine High School which have been said to contribute to the Columbine High School massacre.[19] The Deneke case has also been referred to briefly in an academic article arguing the case for expanding the definitions of bias crime beyond the usual boundaries of religious, sexual and racial groups, to other social groupings.[20]

Tributes to Brian DenekeEdit


Numerous tribute gigs and concerts have been made for Deneke since his death. In 2000, The Unity Through Diversity festival was held in Amarillo featuring The Undead and Mike Watt, amongst other bands.[21] The tenth anniversary of his death demonstrated the ongoing significance of his death to the punk community with 25 concerts being held on December 8, 2007 across the United States and Canada, including concerts in New York City, Chicago, Seattle and five concerts across Texas including a two-day event in Amarillo. Half of the money raised by these events went to National Organization for Parents of Murdered Children, the other half to various anti prejudice causes.[22][23] The memorial concerts stated aims were: "Brian was only 19 years old when he succumbed to violent death due to prejudice and ignorance. The Memorial events will donate our profits to charities that fight hate-crime. Brian's existence will continue to inspire others."[24]


Deneke's death has been the subject of a number of songs, including:


A play about the Deneke case, Manslaughtered, by David Bucci, was performed at the Annex Theatre, Seattle in 2000.[26]


A film about Brian Deneke's short life has been made called Bomb City, named after Amarillo's nickname as a nuclear weapons disassembly site.[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Potter County obituaries for December 13, 1997
  2. ^ White Slave Traders Website Archived 2007-11-17 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Anarchy in Amarillo". Dallas Observer. 21 October 1999. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  4. ^ a b "Dropkick Murphys" Paste Punk March 15, 2001
  5. ^ "Official Website of the Brian Deneke Memorial Committee". Archived from the original on 2017-01-08. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  6. ^ a b c d Yardley, Jim (26 November 1999). "After a Murder Trial, Amarillo Asks, 'Is This a Tolerant Place?'". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  7. ^ Ferrell, Jeff (September 2001). Tearing Down the Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy. Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23335-3.
  8. ^ Smith, Evan; Pamela Colloff (September 2007). Texas Monthly on Texas True Crime. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71675-9.
  9. ^ a b c "Victim's dad unsurprised by sentence". Amarillo Globe News. 2 September 1999. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  10. ^ a b "Dustin Camp's father pleads no contest". Amarillo Globe News. November 5, 2003. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  11. ^ "Probation violator gets 8-year term". Houston Chronicle. September 8, 2001. Archived from the original on September 30, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  12. ^ "20/20 Downtown - Season 1, Episode 12: A Town Without Pity / Boy Trouble / Free Fall from Fame -". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  13. ^ "A Town Without Pity?". ABC News. The Internet Archive. 1999-01-06. Archived from the original on August 16, 2003. Retrieved 2003-08-16. (This is an unedited, uncorrected transcript.) This transcript has expired from our service. To purchase a transcript or videocassette call 1-800-CALL-ABC.
  14. ^ "All Things Considered". NPR. 1999-11-22. (RealAudio .RAM file)
  15. ^ Wade Goodwyn (1999-11-22). "All Things Considered — Amarilo". NPR. NPR's Wade Goodwyn has a report tensions between two teen cliques in Amarillo, Texas that led to the death of one young man, and a split in the community. Amarillo is a conservative Texas panhandle town. Kids who've chosen to rebel, hanging with a crowd known as the "punks" — as in "punk rockers" — have found themselves in conflict with the "preps."
  16. ^ Browsers take aim at Internet Web site Amarillo Globe January 14, 2000
  17. ^ Channel Surfer: Deneke's death subject of MTV show Amarillo Globe September 28, 2001
  18. ^ Disinformation Conference - Marilyn Manson Speaks on Violence Part 2 on YouTube
  19. ^ Jane Bluestein, Creating Emotionally Safe Schools: A Guide for Educators and Parents(HCI, 2001) p. 157
  20. ^ M. Blake, "Geeks and Monsters: Bias Crimes and Social Identity" Law and Philosophy, Volume 20, Number 2, March 2001 , pp. 121-139
  21. ^ "Diversity festival draws hundreds" Amarillo Globe
  22. ^ "Short life remembered" Amarillo Globe
  23. ^ "Ex Misfits Guitarist Pays Tribute To Slain Fan -". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  24. ^ National Deneke Memorial - Organising page for the 2007 events
  25. ^ "SoundStage! Hammell On Trial - Tough Love, Lou Depot - 61 Old Depot". Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  26. ^ David Bucci, Script for Manslaughtered (PDF)
  27. ^ "Bomb City". Retrieved 30 October 2017.


  • Mikita Brottman (ed), Car Crash Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 254-6
  • Jeff Ferrell, Tearing Down the Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy (Palgrave Macmillan 2001)
  • Texas Monthly on True Crime (University of Texas Press, 2007) p. 19-38
  • "Death In Texas(the story of Brian Deneke)" PUNK PLANET 36


External linksEdit