The movie Bomb City examines the killing of Brian Deneke, and highlights the factional rivalries in Amarillo, Texas
In late 1997, a teenage turf war erupted in Amarillo, Texas. On one side: mostly clean-cut jocks who played football at the local high school. On the other side: members of the punk rock community. The skirmishes — both verbal spats and fist-fights — became more frequent, and escalated in intensity.
Then, on December 12, 1997, the turf war turned deadly.
Late that night, a fight broke out in the Western Plaza Shopping Center, outside an IHOP restaurant. According to the police report, 17-year-old Dustin Camp, a football player, retreated to his Cadillac and drove away. Then, according to the report, he turned the vehicle around and deliberately ran over 19-year-old Brian Deneke, who died at the scene.
Deneke had been an entrenched part of Amarillo’s punk rock scene. He played in bands, worked as an artist, and skateboarded around town.
His death tore Amarillo asunder. There were demonstrations and debates across the city. The trial was covered on national television, emphasizing the intolerance sometimes faced by those who deviate from the norm in conservative areas.
Camp was charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors argued that he intentionally killed Deneke; one of their witnesses was a passenger who testified that Camp yelled “I’m a ninja in my Caddy” as he targeted the teen.
But Camp’s defense attorney, Warren L. Clark, painted the punks as “armed goons.” Emphasizing Camp’s clean-cut, wholesome image, he told jurors that his client was simply trying to protect his friends by his actions.
Ultimately, Camp was only convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation and a fine of $10,000. The fine was eventually dropped. But he wound up serving five years in prison for parole violations.
Two decades later, a film based on Deneke’s death and Camp’s trial has been released. Bomb City examines the differences between the two teens, both of whom came from middle-class families. A trailer for the movie is below.
Deneke’s family acknowledges that the film conveys the rawness of the case. “We saw a lot of reactions that a lot of people had,” Mike Deneke, Brian’s father, told Amarillo.com. “[The movie is] accurate to the point that you really get a good feel of the emotions, frustrations and tensions that led up to what happened and the trial.”
Bomb City is now available for rental and purchase.