Killing Time at Shadow Mountain High

When bad things happen to good neighbors

All of the boys had been caught up in hormonal rage. "Roostering" is how one of the victims' mothers put it, the macho posturing of adolescents in good neighborhoods and bad. Like other childhood diseases, sometimes its fever breaks, sometimes it kills.

Good neighborhoods--and all the boys were from good neighborhoods--just aren't zoned for trouble. So when trouble shows up, no one sees it coming. Call it street smarts: Kids in "bad" neighborhoods have a more realistic idea of when to make eye contact and when to turn and run. They have a greater chance of realizing that when a smaller kid picks a fight, he's probably packing a weapon.

The good-neighborhood upbringing gives a false sense of security, a heightened sense of the immortality all teens feel anyway, and a whole lot ofattitude. Murder just isn't supposed to happen there.

"Some of the kids who grow up in affluent neighborhoods have a bit more self-esteem, and they're taught to stand up for their rights and not back off," says Captain D.P. Gonzalez of the Department of Public Safety's state gang task force. "Whereas if you have a street-life kid in south or west Phoenix, the majority of them know what their limits are."

Ironically, in the unfathomable intensity of adolescence, self-esteem and self-worth--positive qualities parents want to instill in their children--can cloud judgment.

Two boys jumped headlong into killing; two others jumped to their deaths.

Shadow Mountain High School sits a quarter mile west of the intersection of 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard and a short mile east of the North Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

It's in an old neighborhood, by Phoenix standards; most of the houses were built in the 1970s, and the families that live in them are predominantly upper-middle-class folks. It seems safe and quiet, the kind of place where you want to raise your kids.

"The vast majority of the students at Shadow Mountain are good kids," says Captain Gonzalez of DPS, "and a small minority of the students cause a majority of the problems."

And most of those students are not involved in street gangs. According to Gonzalez, gang activity, although chipping away at the outskirts of the neighborhood, is minimal at Shadow Mountain. In fact, he claims, there are just as many white, teen and twentysomething skinheads in the district as gangbangers, who also commit assaults and auto thefts and drug deals. Chris Colombi's ragtag, MTV version of a gang, which calls itself Piru Blood, doesn't even show up on the DPS charts--which doesn't mean the kids aren't vicious, but only that they don't have significant arrest records.

"Our little wanna-be gang killed Ryan Winn," scoffs Theresa McCarville, Pat's mother.

Yet police insist that both events had less to do with gangs than with teenage testosterone.

Dr. Connie Liddle, the principal at Shadow Mountain, refused to talk to New Times. A coach at a nearby high school, who used to teach at Shadow Mountain, said of the Shadow students, "Everything's an attitude with these kids."

According to police, many of the juvenile problems in the Shadow Mountain area are caused by jocks.

"They think they're above it all because their status as athletes allows them to get away with things," says Gonzalez. "We can't classify them as gang members, but they create as much fear and intimidation at a high school or a neighborhood as any street gang would."

The parking lots of the fast-food joints up and down 32nd Street, less than a mile away, are filled with sour-faced, posturing young men just daring passers-by to make eye contact. And many of them are the good kids. They polarize into cliques--preppies and skaters and stoners and hip-hop dudes. And jocks.

And many of them live in a fistfight culture. They arrange for fights with other schools, in open fields, at pizza joints, and most of those arrangements are for effect only--everyone knows that one side or the other won't show up.

"We have a lot of calls of juvenile fighting near 32nd Street and Shea at all those fast-food restaurants," says Phoenix Police Lieutenant Brenda Campbell, "but by the time we get there, the problem usually has resolved itself or the kids left."

Neither Ryan Winn nor Pat McCarville, nor the Richardson brothers, were part of this fighting clique. None had been in trouble before. They were kids who respected their parents and did their schoolwork. But they'd obviously been seduced by jock attitude, thinking that their athletic ability somehow translated into fighting ability. And when they came up against kids who were equipped to kill, they lost.

"I've always told my son not to fight," says Theresa McCarville. "I never prepared him to fight. I never thought he had the need to fight."

"They have no skills to defuse a situation," adds Connie Richardson, the mother of Danny and Paul. "We taught our kids to say no to drugs and stranger danger. It's time to teach them how to back out of a fightwithout losing pride."

Because in both incidents the athletes threw the first punches, the assailants are pleading self-defense in court. And while the families of the victims have been irrevocably shattered, all of the assailants are back in the community.

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ryan was shot on July 4th 1995. when the gun fired none of the 100 guests reacted, they thought it was firecrackers. the gun wasn't against his chest, probably 10 feet away. while pat didn't follow ryan I did. ryan didn't say anything to chris before striking him. ryan struck him on the side of the head, in the ear and continued with well aimed punches in the back of chris's head. chris turned his back to the assault but ryan continued. i was waiting for chris to fall so i could have a piece of the fallen stranger to release my "teen spirit" chris saved himself from the beating by turning around with the gun and firing repeatedly. ryan crumpled forwArd to the ground. i called 911 on the house phone. they asked where he was shot, they told me to look. there was a crowd around ryan, i pushed them away and pulled up his shirt. it looked like someone took a hot screw driver and stabbed him all over his torso with dark puncture holes and a circle of black soot around the holes. i could see where the normal contour of his ribs was disrupted. there was a small amount of blood from one of his arms but otherwise it was all internal bleeding. ryan was pale, not speaking and many people were screaming in terror. 911 kept me on the phone till the ambulance got there.

the detective really screwed up my statement. i didn't find out till years later when a former co-worker of mine ended up with a different job where she stumbled onto the bogus report. she sent me a copy. the report was totally facticious to side with ryan, the initiator, and the one who died that night.

i didn't know either of the boys names until the shooting. no one chased chris anywhere he ran right out of the backyard and went home to his parents i beleive.

chris could have pulled the trigger fewer times or shot him in the legs to stop the brutal assault.

i was subenad for the defense but chris settled out of court.

Similar story for the stabbings. the caucasian boys were last seen drunk driving away from Christy Cove Park holding their 40's out the window yelling out that they were gonna kick some ass. they found their younger smaller victims at pv mall. the drunk caucasiAns beat the latino boys into the pavement, turned their backs and walked away as if they had "won". the latino boys recovered, brandished their knives, rushed up on the boys who had just assaulted them and, without warning, began stabbing their perpetrators to death.

in both murderous events the dead had initiated the violence without just cause and were met by superior violence; in the first case in self defense and in the second for revenge.

I have never seen anything so violent as ryan's death.

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