Killing Time at Shadow Mountain High

Page 5 of 8

"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."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Kiefer