Killing Time at Shadow Mountain High

Ryan Winn, in an uncharacteristic state of agitation, exploded across the backyard of a north Phoenix house where a teenage beer party was rocking and roaring.

Ryan was a strapping, big 16-year-old with jug ears. He played football and basketball at Shadow Mountain High School and was friends with just about everyone.

Just about.
He stopped at the beer keg, where his basketball buddy Pat McCarville was filling his cup.

"Chris is here," he told Pat, "and he's got a bunch of guys with him. So do you want to come over and back me up?"

"Chris" was Chris Colombi, 17, a misfit kid from the same nice neighborhood who fancied himself to be a gangster. He'd come to this predominantly jock party with three other teens, all of them wearing red shirts--their gang colors--and the baggy pants and baseball caps that are supposed to signify gangdom.

Chris and Ryan had had a dispute of three months' standing, and it was understood that the next time they ran into each other, they would fight.

Pat McCarville, 16, told his friend Ryan that he'd be right over to help him.

"Ryan wasn't the type to fight, so I just blew it off," Pat remembers. "I thought they'd probably just yell at each other."

He was wrong.
Ryan confronted Chris and, according to police reports, he told Chris, "You're at the wrong party. [If] you've got a problem with me, you shouldn't start shit here. All my boys are here."

He then punched Chris in the side of the head.
Chris backed up and, as Ryan charged, pulled a small black handgun out from under his shirt, stuck it into Ryan's chest and fired pointblank, three times.

Ryan fell back; Pat McCarville tried to stanch the flow of blood coming from Ryan's wounds. And another basketball friend, Danny Richardson, 18, chased Chris and his boys out into the street.

Chris jumped into his mother's 1994 Jeep Cherokee and screeched away from the curb. Danny Richardson chased the car, banging on the windows. He later told Pat McCarville's mother that Chris had pointed the gun at himthrough the car window, but didn't pull the trigger. Somehow, he failed to convey that information to the police and prosecutors handling the investigation of the shooting.

Danny and Pat and another boy jumped into Danny's truck and chased after the Jeep, but lost sight of it at 32nd Street.

Just after midnight, Loretta and Burt Winn received the late-night phone call that no parent wants to get.

When Ryan had left the house with some friends earlier that evening, he'd told them he was going to see a fireworks display--it was July 4--and then get a bite to eat. Apparently, he'd run into other friends at Taco Bell and they all decided to go to the beer party, an activity his parents had never suspected he'd do.

"We were up 90 percent of the time when he came in on curfew," his father said. "If he drank, he never showed it. We would watch him walk in."

The first call that night came from a teen who told them Ryan had been shot, then hung up without saying where or when. The second call came from another parent who had heard the same.

Then John C. Lincoln Hospital called to say that Ryan was in surgery.
As the Winns drove to the hospital, they passed the party, and when they saw some of Ryan's friends still hovering on the street, they knew that the shooting had taken place there.

And shortly after they reached the hospital, they learned that Ryan was dead.

"He was such a vibrant kid. He made you love life," his mother says. "I was thinking, 'Lord, how could You do this to us?' I just freaked. We had so many goals, so many things to look forward to."

Three months later, Danny Richardson, Ryan's friend who had chased Chris Colombi's car, was dead, too, stabbed to death in a fight at Paradise Valley Mall. His twin brother Paul was stabbed also, and so was Pat McCarville.

They'd bumped shoulders with some other boys in the mall's food court, then both groups faced off, strutting stiff-legged like male dogs sniffing butts. Neither sidewould back down, adolescent egos roused and riled by the bump, and within minutes, three boys lay bleeding on the sidewalk outside the mall, and three boys were running with blood on their hands and their clothes.

The community was sent reeling in shock that four good kids from Mr. Rogers' neighborhood could find the kind of trouble usually associated with west and south Phoenix.

The parents of all the boys rushed to their sons' defense, half out of the protecting parental instinct, half in denial.

And as often happens, the "good" boys were not so good as they were painted, nor the "bad" boys so bad. The good boys had been drinking and belligerent; most of the bad boys had never been in trouble before--one of them was an honor-roll student. The parents of the assailants were as puzzled by their sons' actions as the parents of the victims.

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.

Chris Colombi is out on bond; at least one of his pals from the party is still attending Shadow Mountain. The knifers in the PV Mall incident come from a northwest Phoenix neighborhood that is a blue-collar mirror image of the northeast Phoenix neighborhood of their victims: None is in jail; one is staying with family and going to school in Seattle, and one was never charged.

The mothers of the victims, understandably outraged that their sons' assailants could stay out of jail, have joined together in gathering signatures on petitions asking for legislation that will require that children 15 or older be tried as adults if they commit murder, rape or armed robbery.

Everyone is scared. Witnesses to Ryan's shooting have received death threats. Misguided teenage friends of the dead youths have vowed revenge in special violence-counseling sessions that the schoolarranged.

"You've got a loaded gun there at the high school," says Loretta Winn, "with many kids who are very angry. They see no consequences."

The kids claim to be afraid of Chris Colombi, who is regularly spotted near the school although he does not attend it.

"I don't want to give Chris Colombi all this power," Loretta Winn continues. "I think kids, with all theirrumors and their passion and their compassion, they're putting all thesemind-things together. And I want to stop that, because we all have to go on withour lives. Nothing will be the same for us--but don't give him more than he deserves."

Joan Colombi, Chris' mother, refused to talk at length about her son's case on the advice of her attorney, but she, too, worries that vengeance will catch up to Chris.

"That's always possible in this day and age," she says. "I have been in fear for my son."

Chris' attorney, however, speaks more strongly.
"I am bothered and concerned that these kids from the high school are being done a disservice, probably by the school and maybe by their parents," he says. "The first incident [Ryan's death] never should have happened. And the second incident [the mall stabbings]--how could you ever accept that? Instead of the school making heroes of all these kids and instead of pointing at outsiders, they should be sitting the kids down and saying, 'You should adjust how you act.'"

Although his defense has tried to portray Chris Colombi as a poor, disadvantaged youth from a broken home, he lives with his mother in a pricey home near the mountain preserve. He committed his crime while driving his mother's late-model Jeep Cherokee. And when the police came to his door looking for him, his mother paged him on his beeper.

He'd been in trouble before.
Christopher Colombi is a darkly handsome, seemingly clean-cut kid. But every parent in the neighborhood with children his age remembers him as the class problem. They all know his name.

He was the elementary school pupil who would push the limits of misbehavior in class, working the teacher for the amusement of his classmates. He was the kid most likely to be caught fighting in middle school. And even in eighth grade, according to police reports, he was haggling with and running from bigger boys in gangs.

Chris left Shadow Mountain High School in his freshman year, his mother told the court, because he was afraid of being beat up by jocks at lunch time. Instead, he enrolled at North Canyon High School where his mother works. His father is a public school guidance counselor.

Chris' friends and other teens at Shadow Mountain told police that it was general knowledge that Chris had been carrying a gun for months before he used it on Ryan Winn. They came forward with unverifiable tales of Chris' infractions, ranging from throwing rocks and tagging to stealing cars and pointing guns. It came out during his court hearings that he'd already been sent away once to a hospital for drug rehabilitation, and once to a wilderness camp aimed at rebuilding his self-esteem.

One police officer recalls throwing him out of Paradise Valley Mall on two separate occasions just for daring to show his face there. Mall security apparently knew him by reputation--and by sight. And just a few weeks ago, he was thrown out of Burger King on 32nd Street near Cactus, for dumping salt out of salt shakers; then he lurked in the parking lot until the restaurant manager called police.

And though Chris' attorney claims that he no longer runs with the group of lost boys that called itself Piru Blood, neighborhood kids have reported seeing him with them during his bail. Parents of those other boys in the would-be gang do not understand why their sons act as they do.

Coni Schelling, whose two sons run with Chris Colombi, claims that the parents of the boys have sat them down in a group and asked, "What's going on with you guys? Why so much anger with other kids?"

Neither Chris' nor Ryan Winn's friends seem to know why the two boys had been cultivating a grudge for so many months. Rumors floated that Chris had stolen a stereo out of Ryan's car, but Ryan's parents say that didn't happen.

Ryan had apparently been acquainted with Chris' younger sister Jamie, a pretty and athletic girl who used to attend Shadow Mountain, and who is known to be as sweet as her brother is not. Ryan had given her rides home after school, and had once attended a party at her house while Chris was present.

In police reports, both Chris' and Ryan's friends say that Ryan took a dislike to Chris at that party and later trashed him around town, calling him a "punk ass" among other things.

Last March 18, there was a confrontation between the two boys at Shadow Mountain, and whether Chris sought out Ryan to confront him, or just ran into him by chance while dropping off his sister, is open to interpretation. They argued, Chris allegedly called Ryan out for a fight right then and there, and Ryan told him he'd meet him after school.

Chris didn't show for the after-hours fight, so an enraged Ryan jumped in his car and drove to Chris' house--followed by several of his friends--and stood in the front yard shouting for Chris to come outside to fight. Chris stayed in the house while his mother called police.

Ryan's parents never heard a word about it.
"We never knew of Chris Colombi," says Loretta Winn. "We never knew a Jamie Colombi. And when people would call, we would ask who they were."

And, improbably, many of Ryan's best friends claim they never knew that there was an ongoing dispute between the boys, let alone one that was leading to killing.

Just like Ryan Winn, Chris Colombi told his mother he was going out to watch the Fourth of July fireworks display. He took Jamie with him, and they went to pick up Chris' friend Naaman Haynes, then gathered with other teens at an apartment near Cave Creek and Sweetwater roads.

Chris, Jamie, Haynes, another young man named Philemon Ingram, and two brothers, Travis and Justin Schelling, got in Chris' mother's car and headed for the party.

On the short ride there, according to witness accounts in the police reports, Travis, the older of the Schelling boys, argued with his younger brother about going to the party, telling him that walking into a yard full of jocks would be nothing but trouble, since they had had problems with jocks in the past.

Finally, Jamie Colombi and Travis got out of the car and walked back tothe apartments without attending the party.

Chris and his friends had already been drinking beer. They paid their way into the party, bought some marijuana there, and sat in their car and smoked it. Then they went back to the yard where Chris Colombi committed the desperate act of shooting another boy in front of more than 50 witnesses who knew his name.

After the shooting, some of the boys ran back to the apartment; Chris drove. When he got there, Justin later told his mother a detail that could show premeditation on Chris' part.

According to Coni Schelling, Travis had asked Chris, "Did you shoot him?" or "Did you get him?"

Chris responded by pantomiming the way that Ryan fell.
Later, under police interrogation, neither of the Schelling brothers would admit that that conversation ever occurred, but Coni Schelling, their mother, holds fast to her story.

"I know that night something was going on because Travis tried to talk Justin into not going," she says.

Travis later told police that he had no knowledge of Chris' intentions--if any--when he went to a party where everyone disliked him. He claimed he just had the sense to stay away from trouble. And if he thought Chris had ruined his own life by shooting Ryan, Travis still gave police a chilling rationalization of the act, revealing the depths of polarization and free-floating hostility in the teenage universe.

"It's no worse than what them jocks do every day to people they don't like," he said. "If someone doesn't fit in with them or nothing, they're always fucking around. Jumping people, kicking people's butt all the time, and the reason is they don't like the way they look or they don't like how they act, and that's none of their fucking business. You know? That's how it's always been. That's how it was when I went to school there. I was always fighting with them fags."

After the shooting, the word in the neighborhood was that Chris' friends would go after Ryan's friends.

Tyler Daniel, another Shadow Mountain athlete who had been at the beer party, admits that he got a phone call and that police had warned him that threats were being made against him.

One source told NewTimes that Chris' mother has confided to her co-workers that Tyler stalked her son with a gun in the parking lot of a local drugstore. Joan Colombi would not comment on the incident. Tyler denies the allegation, but says that he did in fact see Chris at the store.

"I didn't know it was him until he drove away and started throwing up his gang signs out of the window," Tyler says.

Connie Richardson says that her son Danny also received threats, but that police and prosecutors told her not to worry about them.

Three months later, he was dead.
On October 2, a Monday, Danny, his brother Paul, Pat McCarville and another boy named Jeff Christiano met at a neighborhood park to drink beer. Hospital blood tests later showed that Pat and Paul were legally drunk; Danny had apparently not consumed any alcohol.

Then they went to Paradise Valley Mall.
Pat and Danny were in the men's room when the bump happened.
Witnesses later reported seeing the three youths, Mike Shoemaker, 17, Tommy Lopez, 18, and Greg Acevedo, 16, cruising through the mall trying hard to make eye contact, a fight waiting to happen.

And when they passed through the food court, Lopez and Christiano bumped shoulders.

One nearby witness told New Times that the contact looked accidental and that the basketball players probably would have kept walking.

But then Lopez, by some witness accounts, called out, "What's up, punk?"
Paul Richardson took up the challenge. "What are you looking at?" he asked, the same old lines that adolescents have used for fighting words for generations, which led to the next cliche, "Do you want to take this outside?" That was as far as the conversation went, and within 90seconds of the bump, they had decided to fight. None of the boys knew each other; Tommy Lopez had already graduated from high school and had a job at a supermarket; Mike Shoemaker and Greg Acevedo were students at Moon Valley High School.

None of the parents of these boys can fathom why they faced off to fight. None of the boys had any fighting experience. None had been in trouble before.

Maybe the beer was talking for the athletes; maybe they were pushed by the fear of being threatened after Ryan Winn's shooting.

The other boys have no excuses. They have claimed they fought in self-defense. Witnesses have said they were the more aggressive of the two groups in the early moments of the altercation. If they were so terrified as to kill, why didn't they back down? Why didn't they run?

Instead, both sides were caught up in a base animal instinct--male territoriality.

Lori Norfolk, who is the common-law stepmother of Greg Acevedo, says, "These kids didn't even know each other. Maybe because of this other situation [the death threats], that's why these boys felt threatened or felt like they needed to fight. I really don't know. I don't know why kids would want to fight somebody they don't even know. There's no reason for it."

Except that boys fight and always have.
Nor can Norfolk understand why her stepson and Mike Shoemaker were carrying knives.

"Are they thinking, 'If I show them I have a knife, they won't fight'? What if they still do? Somebody's going to get hurt."

And somebody did.
At first, Greg and Mike and Tommy had a three-on-two fight in their favor. But Jeff and Paul signaled to Pat and Danny, who were just coming out of the men's room.

Paul is five-eleven; Greg and Tommy are five-six and five-seven. Suddenly, here were two more boys, Pat, who is six-seven, and Danny, who was six-three. Suddenly, the odds had turned.

And then two witnesses who overheard the argument stood up to follow the boys outside and watch the fight. At that point, Mike and Greg and Tommy could have kept walking--could have run--but they didn't. Instead, they walked out the mall doors and waited.

A police spokesman later told the media that "the basketball players brought fists to a knife fight." The accused boys later pleaded in court that they only fought in self-defense. But an eyewitness, who asked not to be identified, told New Times that neither was true.

"It was mutual combat," he said, "and what happened was not self-defense by any means. The police said they brought fists to a knife fight; no, they brought knives to a fistfight."

Jeff Christiano never made it outside. Pat McCarville pushed through the doors and headed straight for Mike Shoemaker, who is more than a foot shorter than he, and he pushed him. When McCarville threw his next punch, he missed and tangled his arms around Mike's neck. The smaller boy, witnesses said, seemed to wrap his arms around Pat's waist.

Suddenly, Pat couldn't lift his arms.
"I felt like I couldn't do anything," he remembers. "I wanted to hit him, but I couldn't."

He didn't feel any pain, but he saw the knife in Mike's hand, a folding knife with a hunting blade and green-brown handle. He lifted up his shirt and blood spurted out to the pavement.

He heard Danny cry out that he'd been stabbed. Danny had picked his fight with Greg Acevedo, and Greg stabbed him in the chest with a double-bladed black dagger. Paul had been fighting with Tommy Lopez, but when he turned to help Danny, Lopez caught Paul in a headlock and Greg drove the knife into his back.

Danny fell into a planter outside the mall; Paul saw Danny's eyes roll back in his head, and then Paul collapsed on top of his brother.

Pat wandered, dazed, until a passerby suggested he lie down. His beeper started vibrating on his belt--his girlfriend trying to page him--but he couldn't reach it, and the stranger who was trying to help him kept asking what he could do for him.

"Turn off my beeper," Pat said.

Pat McCarville is a likable kid, big-boned and handsome, his dark eyebrows knit into a permanent frown. The scar on his right side where Mike Shoemaker's knife cut into him is little more than an inch long. The wound was five inches deep, and doctors told his parents that if it had been a quarter-inch deeper, it would have killed him. But the scar from the surgery that saved his life stretches from his solar plexus almost to his groin, and sections of it still ache. He had not recovered enough by the start of basketball season to make the team.

Paul Richardson made the team, though just weeks ago he quit after a dispute with the coach. His mother says he still feels the physical effects of his wounds, but the emotional scars are more painful.

As a twin, he had never even gone to school by himself, and now he has to learn to be independent.

"Paul's seen Ryan die," says his mother, Connie Richardson. "He's seen his brother Danny die. He has nightmares. I've never seen anyone die. But I've got nightmares of my own."

Both Acevedo and Shoemaker are free on bond awaiting trial. Lopez--although some witnesses claimed he held Paul while Paul was being stabbed--was not even charged.

And although police insist that the stabbing was not at all related to the Ryan Winn shooting, the two still came together again.

In December, Paul Richardson and Pat McCarville went to Metrocenter to do some Christmas shopping. As they walked through the parking lot, Pat says, a car cruised past them, and they realized that one of the two kids inside was Chris Colombi. Pat and Paul kept walking.

Moments later, as they shopped in an athletic-wear store, Chris' companion walked up to Pat.

"You think you're pretty tough since you got shanked," Pat claims the other boy said to him, followed by the same old classic: "Do you want to go outside?"

And though Pat had seen Ryan and Danny get killed, and had nearly died himself because of those words, he followed the boy out of the store into the mall lobby where Chris Colombi waited.

Pat called them punks.
"Do you have a gun?" he asked Chris' friend, and the boy said he didn't.
"Chris, what about you?" he claims he continued. "You got a gun?"

And then Pat claims that Chris answered, "You want to go outside and find out?"

This time Pat walked away.
The confrontation could have been enough to have Chris' bail revoked. Sources close to the investigation claim that police contacted Chris about the incident, and he told them that Pat and Paul had been the aggressors, and so they declared it a wash.

Chris Colombi and Greg Acevedo will be tried in adult court. Mike Shoemaker is still in juvenile court, until and unless the judge handling his case decides to transfer him to adult court as well.

At each hearing, the parents gather in defense of their boys, all thinking their child has been wronged by the other, the "bad" boys.

And all worry that perhaps their sons areat fault. And to a degree, they all are. The benches in the courthouses resemble church pews, and the families of the accused and the victims sit on opposite sides, like families in a wedding.

On a recent afternoon, Connie Richardson sits in the juvenile court on Durango, herface drained of color as a psychologist (paid more than $4,000for his testimony) describes her son's killer in terms more fitting of an Eagle Scout.

Greg Acevedo is a broad-backed young man, with thick, jet-black hair combed straight back. He wears a red prison tee shirt, his wrists bound by handcuffs, his legs in shackles. His father sits at his side. And though the father seems an honest, hardworking man, the police record reveals that he instructed his girlfriend, Lori Norfolk, to wash the boys' knives and their bloody clothing after the stabbings.

Greg is an honor-roll student, the psychologist says, with no criminal record and a relatively healthy psychological profile. There is nothing in the doctor's testimony to explain why Greg would carry a double-edged dagger and stab another young man to death with it.

His uncle, sitting in the courthouse pews, turns to his neighbor and says, "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

When the hearing ends, Greg's parents and aunts and uncles line up to hug him before the bailiff leads him away with the short and stiff steps that leg irons require. (He will later be transferred to adult court and subsequently released on bond.)

On another afternoon in the same courthouse, Mike Shoemaker, a frail kid with dirty-blond hair who looks younger than his17 years, quivers at the same defense table. His family is there in force.

"You're going to see that we're the real victims," his grandmother calls out.

Indeed, his attorney's defense strategy seems to be thesame as Chris Colombi's, the same as Greg Acevedo's: frame the instant in which the big jocks are attacking the smaller kids who strike back in self-defense.

Tommy Lopez, who was part of the fight but was not charged, sits out inthe hallway, waiting to testify. He's a handsome kid, as lean as Greg is stocky, and he seems to wear a constant smirk. Lori Norfolk's stepson sits next to him, sucking on a Tootsie Roll pop while waiting his turn. Their parents are not with them in court.

At the end of the hearing, as Pat McCarville's parents leave the courthouse with the detective investigating the case, Lopez and the other boy are driving past in the parking lot.

Dramatically, the boys spin tires, and shout something out the windows that neither the McCarvilles nor the detective can hear, but which they interpret as menacing.

Later, when Lori Norfolk hears of the parking-lot incident, she explains that her son Greg and Tommy were really joshing with Mike Shoemaker and his family, that Tommy had accidentally driven his car over the curb, and that the boys and Mike's family were calling back and forth jokingly when the McCarvilles walked past.

"They can say what they want, but that's not what happened," says Pat McCarville, the father of Pat Jr.

More than once, Theresa McCarville has heard the thump, thump of music that throbs like a parody of a heartbeat out of cars with tinted windows that cruise down her street and pause in front of her house. She's given license-plate numbers tothe police, but they won't tell her who the cars belong to. Like all the parents involved, Theresa is scared for her kids.

Lori Norfolk's got her own fears. Her son has been in trouble before and, like the McCarvilles, she wonders how far the kids will go.

"I have a 10-year-old, too. Greg [Acevedo, Greg's father] has two other sons that come and visit with us. And we worry now: Are they going to come back and go after us because of this?

"You wonder how far is it going to go on?"
And no one has faith that the courts will put an end to it.

Meanwhile, on a Friday night, the Shadow Mountain basketball team bullies past a lesser opponent on its way to winning the state championship.

The team plays with the single-minded determination of teenagers, all elbows and emotions, the players' parents in the stands, bleating as if the game were mortal combat to decide the fate of the universe.

The Shadow Mountain players are good; they look good. They sport tattoos, and one starter wears his hair in a shade of Dennis Rodman yellow, a color more commonly seen on 1970s kitchen appliances. They wear their shorts low on the hips, big and baggy, and long enough to reach below their knees--gangbanger style--and whether that is intended to make them look more intimidating or whether it's just youthful imitation of their college-ball idols is anyone's guess.

Coach Jerry Conner is as mystified as anyone as to why four of his players--one varsity and three junior varsity team members--could find themselves fighting. He saw no sign of overt aggression in their demeanor. Fighting is strictly forbidden in games.

"Not only do they get sat down," Conner says, "they miss the next ball game. That's a state rule."

The kids remain heartbreakingly loyal to the memory of their late teammates.
When they go to the bench, they pull on white tee shirts; printed on the backs of the shirts are the yearbook portraits of Ryan Winn and Danny Richardson.

"It's not about hype," the shirts proclaim. "It's about the pride. It's about the love.

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Michael Kiefer