Risky Business

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One bullet struck Rashelle in the chest, killing her.

It happened in the bat of an eye. Rashelle's friends drove her to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Despite the violence, weekend house parties have been going strong across the Valley.

On a recent weekend, about 50 teens lined up at the front door of a tidy home in a new subdivision in the city of Tolleson.

Everyone was pat-searched by party crew members running the show before they got into the house. If they left even for a minute, they again were searched when they returned.

The party's host was the older brother of a teenage girl about to celebrate her 16th birthday. He says he used to run in the old school (and, of course, "better") house party scene before he got married, got a good job with the City of Phoenix and settled down.

Now he's 23.

Inside the home, in a spotless cul-de-sac, a keg of Bud Light sat in a corner of the living room, manned by a party crew member.

A music mix -- controlled by a young Latino wearing a Reggie Bush football jersey -- ran from Kanye West to the Latino street sounds of reggaeton, just about anything with an insistent beat and a monster hook.

The only spoken rule seemed to be no smoking of anything in the house, just in the backyard. The evening was notable for the absence of "drama," as the partygoers call it.

Still, the police came by around 12:30 a.m. to tell everyone that enough was enough.

Despite the relatively mellow atmosphere at this particular party -- a Sweet 16 celebration -- an undercurrent of tension dominated conversations that weren't about the latest romantic match-ups or upcoming football games.

"I like to party, but I don't want to die 'cuz I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Hector Jimenez, a junior at a Phoenix high school who aspires to a career in the military. "I've been too many places recently where these bad-asses pulled out their pieces and scared everyone. I don't plan on staying home, but . . ."

A Phoenix teen wrote in an Internet chat room just before Christmas, "What do I think about the scene these days? That is a stupid question. Count up the funerals then you know how the 'scene' is."

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 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.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin