Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Brian Deneke - ten years on | Local News: Short life remembered 12/09/07

Family still strong after 10 years

Brian Deneke looked different than most teenagers.

He and his friends wore colored spiked hair, body jewelry and non-traditional clothing. They were called "punks."

Their appearance varied greatly from their counterparts, the stylish "preps." On the night of Dec. 12, 1997, punks and preps brawled in the parking lot of Western Plaza Shopping Center in a dispute that spilled over from IHOP, 2100 S. Western St.

When the confusion cleared, Deneke, 19, lay dead, run over by a Cadillac driven by 17-year-old Dustin Camp.

Deneke's death and Camp's ensuing legal saga drew the national press and television spotlight to Amarillo.

Ten years after his death, Deneke's story still impacts lives, said his father, Mike Deneke of Amarillo.

"I'm somewhat surprised by all the attention 10 years later," Mike Deneke said. "There are approximately 25 events going on across the nation in tribute to Brian this weekend. We never expected that.

"We hope because of all the attention there have been some changes. I hope it's opened some eyes about how people feel about people who look different, dress different."

Mike Deneke said some young people say their differences are more tolerated these days. He also hears from the other side.

"I hear from high school kids who talk about how they get picked on because they're not part of the 'in crowd' - dress a little different, that kind of thing," he said.

"Brian has become a symbol of people who have experienced those sort of things. I think that's why the story still has such a big impact," the father said.

Another part of the story that produced a big impact was the controversial sentence Camp received after a jury convicted him of manslaughter in August 1999. He received 10 years of probation and a $10,000 fine.

"We were not happy with the original sentence," Mike Deneke said.

Camp ruined his chance to avoid prison when Canyon police arrested him in June 2001 on charges of evading arrest and being a minor in possession of alcohol. In September 2001, 108th District Judge Abe Lopez sentenced Camp to eight years in prison for the probation violations.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles twice denied parole for Camp before granting his early release in July 2006.

Mike Deneke said he never has had contact with Camp or his family, who left Amarillo.

"We do not know where he is at," Mike Deneke said. "He was paroled into the El Paso area."

Mike Deneke and his wife, Betty Deneke, said they hold no bitterness.

"Nothing is going to bring Brian back or undo what happened that night," Mike Deneke said. "I hope he (Camp) has a chance to move on with his life and do something good out of it."

Betty Deneke said, "I don't have any bitterness anymore. I did at first. I don't anymore through the grace of God. He helped me get through it. I just don't want it to happen to anyone else.

"Ten years later, we still feel like he's still with us, still a part of us."

Betty Deneke said she hopes that through the death of her son, people will learn "to treat other people the way they would want to be treated. Respect their individuality."

Said Mike Deneke, "We have tried to move on. Brian wouldn't want us to be bitter. He would want us to move on.

"Out of the tragedy there has been some good that has come: an awareness of the consequences of actions of intolerance."

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