Risky Business

Two teens are murdered, as violence escalates at West Valley house parties. Some blame party-crew rivalry

Another partyer bemoaned that "all in all this ain't no fairy tale and this ain't no HBO special. This is real life. C'mon now. Party crews shooting up party crews? People need to quit actin' street and quit actin' like they are killers when they not. Drive-bys at a party doesn't make you a killer, random gunfire into a crowd doesn't make you a killer."

That led someone else to respond, "For everyone who says they're still gonna bang on people and krews, what the 'f' for? It doesn't solve anything, all it does is just make things worse.

"It's basically like a never-ending cycle of hate, and the only one who can change it is you, us! What I can say is, fuck the beef, because right now it's gonna take a lot of dead bodies to solve things and that's just not right. So, please, people, stop killing each other!"

The body of Jose Renteria at his memorial service.
Paul Rubin
The body of Jose Renteria at his memorial service.
Marianna, Ivan, and Andrea, Jose Renteria's siblings, 
raising money for his funeral.
Paul Rubin
Marianna, Ivan, and Andrea, Jose Renteria's siblings, raising money for his funeral.

The young man who started the RottenApplez site in February 2004, a Carl Hayden High grad of Mexican-Korean descent who goes by the moniker of "Pak," has his own doubts about the current house party scene.

"It's not what it used to be," Pak tells New Times. "It used to be about having fun and hanging out with friends and getting tipsy. But now you're lucky if a party lasts more than 30 minutes."

Pak, a talented artist who works at a graphic design firm, says he opened the Web site when he and a dozen or so pals were starting their own crew.

"Our intentions were self-promotion," he explains. "Within a few months, the site became very popular with the underground party scene. But the only reason it's still up and running is because it's so well-known in the club scene and the party scene. Eventually it's going to become strictly club."

Pak elaborates: "I hate drama. I hate the company it keeps, so I try to disassociate myself from it. I just want to go out, drink, have a good time and come home safe."

He doesn't attend many house parties these days, and with good reason.

Pak has turned 21.

For obvious reasons, nightspots such as downtown Phoenix's Coach and Willies -- a popular meeting ground for young Latinos -- are far more appealing to those of age.

"Honestly, the little backyard house shit is dead," a woman named Cathy wrote December 8 on Pak's Web site. "The bomb-ass parties I go to are in mansions, warehouses, etcetera, but everyone is not qualified to go. That shit is tight -- many different contests from girls competing, bare-fist fighting, huge prizes. Just fun meeting peoples and dancing, strong security. NO DRAMA. Just fun, but it's hard to get into."

But those teenagers seemingly unfettered by parental supervision need someplace cool to hang. With that in mind, a guy named Big Ray recently issued what he called a "blueprint" for throwing a successful and safe party.

It included cogent advice on location, music, drinks and -- most important -- security.

"Safety is a big issue," Big Ray wrote. "You wanna have fun, don't you? Don't feel like dying that night? Have someone in front patting everyone down, even if they have already paid and got patted. If they want to come back they better get patted again or else it defies the whole point."

A few weeks ago, Jose Renteria's immediate family drove after nightfall to the site of his October murder, which now seems to have happened so long ago.

Jose's mother, siblings and other family members return there almost daily, to attend to the array of votive candles and flowers on the side of the road, and to say their prayers.

"We have to keep candles lit for him," says his sister Marianna, "keep the light shining on him, keep him in the light."

Andrea Renteria says she and Marianna haven't attended any party crew bashes since Jose's murder. "It's too weird, too many things to think about," she says.

The man who owns the home in front of which Jose was shot has allowed the Renterias to place a small wooden cross on the front edge of his property.

They brought the cross back from Mexico after Jose's funeral. It has Jose's name burnished into it. In front of the cross sits a framed photograph of the young man, taken shortly before his death.

Jose's mother, Maria, sprinkles holy water from a small bottle on the spot where her firstborn son fell. She whispers incantations in Spanish as she weeps softly, her tears cascading off her cheeks to join the drops of holy water already on the pavement.

A young cousin of Jose's, no older than 5 or 6, keeps touching the cross with her right index finger. The girl is talking to herself, or to someone else no one can see.

"She's speaking with my brother," Marianna Renteria says. "She wants to tell him everything is okay."

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