My fraternity brother came running down the side lawn of our fraternity house, from the back yard to the front. His eyes were wide. The urgency he spoke and motioned with to the group of brothers on the front lawn was serious, even for what he was telling us. Everyone needed to get to the back right now. There was going to be a fight.
It was early in the morning on October 6, 2007. The bars in Columbia, Missouri, had just let out, and a legion of drunk fraternity guys and sorority girls were making their way back to Greek Town from downtown. A fight was never something I expected on any given night, but considering the time and corresponding levels of sobriety — they mostly happen at night (and after the bars)…mostly — and the countless rivalries that existed within the borders of our little lettered village, the prospect wasn’t necessarily a surprise, either. At least, it wasn’t normally all that surprising.
As I raced to the back, I genuinely could not figure out who would want to start shit on that night. All Friday, and really all week, Mizzou’s student body was about as harmonious as it ever could be. The coming evening, our (then infrequently) ranked Tigers, led by Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin, were slated to play the also ranked but hollow remains of the once great Nebraska football empire in the first night game scheduled in Columbia in nearly three years. The anticipation for the game was electric school-wide, for several reasons. First, any Nebraska game was always a big deal. Second, our team was ranked and we all suspected (correctly) that we might have something special on our hands. This Nebraska game was going to put that suspicion to the test. Third, and most importantly, MOTHERFUCKIN’ TWELVE PLUS HOURS OF TAILGATING! In short, fraternity rivalry or not, hammered drunk or not, everyone was in way too good of a mood to start shit that night.
Once the other brothers from the front lawn and I got to the back — the altercation was taking place at our back door — our numbers roughly doubled to about eleven or twelve against the instigators’ three. The three guys at our back door, however, were not from another fraternity. They were townies. Even though we outnumbered them more than three to one and had more people inside who I assumed were being summoned, I became a little more uneasy with the situation. Townies — these types of townies — are dumb (plus, they were drunk) and dumb townies are unreasonable and do not give a fuck. With a few drunk frat guys, you can lob insults back and forth at each other, but ultimately, you can convince them to leave if there isn’t any actual cause to fight other than nuts that, for God knows what reason, felt like being flexed. A few drunk frat guys would also be more acutely aware that walking up to a fraternity house and starting something while that outnumbered is an idea that, more often than not, ends badly. Townies, however, don’t know or don’t care. Either way, it’s a lot more likely you’re going to have to physically make them leave.
Thankfully, at the head of our group was our fraternity’s house dad, a law student in his early twenties who had been president of the fraternity a few years prior. This was comforting because, simply put, he could beat the shit out of anyone. He was more than six feet tall, he was athletic, he was built like a linebacker, he was smart, and once you pissed him off, he was ruthless. Because this was Missouri and he was awesome at fighting, and for the sake of his anonymity, I’m going to call him “Road House” for the remainder of the column. It is more apt to do so than you know.
Most fraternities have that one guy who, when he steps up to handle any would-be aggressors, the rest of the members all chuckle to themselves and kick their feet up for the show, because the poor bastards on the wrong end of the confrontation have no idea what kind of raw devastation they have in store. Road House is the guy who could kick that guy’s ass.
Around that same time, for some reason (blood lust?) Road House had decided to start training in MMA fighting. He truly wasn’t a guy who started fights — he is much more intelligent and amiable than aggressive — but he did enjoy fighting. His reasoning for starting with the MMA training was that he wanted to see if he could win a match. Fair enough, I guess. In terms of hobbies, I’d much rather have a conversation with someone about that than feign interest to one of the infinity people who took up running half marathons after college and pretend to be impressed when they tell you about how they came in 451st place.
Road House’s first match ever took place at the Blue Note in downtown Columbia. Usually it served as a concert venue, but that night an octagon sat on top of its stage. The entire fraternity showed up for his fight, all of us good and sports drunk. We were excited though slightly worried for Road House. We had seen him win countless drunken brawls; in fact, we never saw him lose. But this was a real fight, against a guy who most assuredly knew what he was doing. Unlike Road House, this was not his opponent’s first match. He had competed in several fights to that point, and he had a winning record.
After being warned by the MC multiple times for viciously booing Road House’s opponent as he made his way to the ring and was announced — we were treating this night more like our own private WWE show — the first round began and ended without much action. It was mostly a grapple-fest, and it was pretty lame. The second round started and immediately had the feel of an actual fight. Both fighters stayed upright, swung at each other a few times, and kicked once or twice. Then, in the blink of an eye, Road House caught his opponent off-guard with a jab. It dazed his opponent, maybe only for a split second, but long enough. Road House immediately unloaded with a violent right hook.
Every member of the fraternity was posted up at the Blue Note’s bar, which is about as far back from the stage as you can get, maybe two hundred feet away. Still, every single one of us saw clear as day the blood and teeth explode out of the mouth of the poor bastard who stepped into the ring with Road House. The knockout was so vicious that I halfway expected a Mortal Kombat finishing move to follow. I’m pretty sure someone from our group actually did scream, “FINISH HIM!” The fraternity erupted, our beers flying through the air as we screamed ourselves hoarse while jumping up and down. Once again, we were warned that we were cheering too much for one side. (MMA crowd rules are lame as shit.) Road House’s opponent got up eventually, acknowledged the crowd, and was immediately taken to the hospital afterward.
The fact that Road House was out there, let alone at the front of the entire confrontation, was good news. There were other brothers out there who were good in a fight as well (myself not included) but as long as Road House was present, all anyone else really needed to do was occupy the other two townies while he methodically rained white-knuckled hate on their worlds one by one. We were pawns and he was the queen. (Also, I’m going to start calling him a queen and see how long it takes him to get annoyed at that compliment).
At the time, because the guys from the front lawn and I were not there to witness the beginning of the altercation, we didn’t have any idea what started all this. All we knew was that these three townies were trying to get into our house, and we were there to reinforce the notion that they weren’t welcome. I would find out in the immediate aftermath that the reason these townies showed up, frankly, was to try to sexually assault a girl Road House was dating at the time, who I’ll call Sara.
The three townies were at the same bar as Sara earlier that night. Road House had not gone out with her. Whether the townies simply noticed her or had actually interacted with her while at the bar was never made totally clear. Really, it’s not all that important, except possibly to determine exactly how big of creeps these townies were, from somewhere on the scale between huge and super. When Sara got in her car to leave, she noticed the townies following her. They got into their car and followed her all the way back to our fraternity house. Rightfully scared, Sara called Road House as she was driving back and told him what was happening. By the time she pulled into the parking lot behind our house, with the three townies literally right on her tail, Road House was there to meet her with a few brothers.
Sara ran straight inside and, still on her heels, one of the townies tried to follow her through the back door. Road House stopped him and immediately told the three townies they needed to leave. According to my pledge brother, who was there from the beginning, the townie who Road House been stopped from entering the fraternity house got upset that he was not allowed inside and started threatening to kick everyone’s ass. It was at this point that my group was retrieved from the front yard.
Of the three townies, one was relatively small, one was absolutely, terrifyingly jacked, and the third was more or less average-sized. I was lucky enough to be the person standing closest to the giant townie, who looked like he was willing to and capable of ripping off my arms and beating me to death with them. Though he was every bit as big and athletic as Road House, I had no doubt Road House could take the guy, especially if the jacked townie was already tired from smashing my head out through my ass. Such is the fate of a pawn.
Though the middle townie — the average-sized one who tried to enter the house — was threatening to kick our asses, we were still confident in our numerous advantages and calmly told them to leave now, or they would regret it. The altercation was surprisingly devoid of shit talking on our end. It was then that I made prolonged eye contact with the jacked townie. Deciding it was time to Hulk the fuck out, the jacked townie ripped off his shirt and came toward me.
“You wanna burn one, motherfucker?!” the jacked townie screamed.
Our guys quickly got between him and me, or anyone else he came toward, there was a little shoving, and from there, the situation fully deteriorated. The average-sized townie, out of either frustration or desperation — probably both — pulled out a handgun and pointed it across our line.
“Imma kill all y’all,” he shouted.
Then he pointed his gun at the ground between us and him and fired three shots into the dirt.
We were all frozen. Time stopped moving for us. We were prisoners of that moment. Even going back to that memory now feels like stepping into a box. What happened was legitimately too scary and too quick to appropriately register and react to. I later joked that anyone who might have been watching from a neighboring house probably thought we looked like hard-asses, because during and after the shots were fired, none of us so much as flinched from the standoffish posture we were in before the townie pulled out the gun. In truth, that was only because we couldn’t move. Everyone was in shock.
Everyone, that is, except for Road House. A man who wanted to fight us and, according to his own words, kill us, had just fired three gunshots in anger, and while all the other fraternity brothers at the back door were petrified in place, Road House simply laughed. He laughed in the face of the man who just fired three shots from less than ten feet away, and whose gun most definitely still had rounds left to expend.
Then Road House said something that I still can’t fully comprehend the stupidity or ballsiness of.
“What is that? A cap gun?” Road House asked, laughing some more as he did.
Road House was making fun of the townie’s gun. A gun the townie had just clearly demonstrated he was willing to use.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to stand next to James Bond or John McClane as he fired off some witty quip in the face of an angry bad guy and imminent death, it’s not as cool as you would think. Looking back, of course, alive and healthy, it’s awesome. It might be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen…in retrospect. In the moment, however, you’re mostly just filled with furious incredulity. This was definitely how everyone at that back door felt. None of the brothers made a sound, though pretty much everyone was screaming on the inside. I believe my own internal monologue was something along the lines of, “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU SICK SON OF A BITCH?!”
To be fair to Road House, the gun was small. That said, it should also be noted that this gun was still 100 percent capable of taking as many human lives as its magazine capacity would allow. Fucking Road House.
The shooter then sprung forward and pistol-whipped Road House. It was a solid blow, and it chipped one of Road House’s molars, though you wouldn’t know it, because Road House barely flinched. While the shooter was still set on attacking us, his two townie friends were not. Presumably freaking out because their buddy discharged a gun basically in the middle of campus, they grabbed him and dragged him back to their car as fast as they could. They threw it in reverse and hit the gas so hard that as they executed a wild, hurried three-point turn to exit the parking lot, they slammed hard into the side of some poor ADPi’s parked van. Then they put it in drive and peeled out. I would guess they were probably doing fifty or sixty through the narrow, car-lined streets of Mizzou’s Greek Town. Two of the brothers followed the car long enough to get the plates, and we called the police.
The aftermath was a whirlwind. Sara was rattled, of course, but okay. The guys who were there for the gunshots, myself included, were mostly in breathless disbelief. Several members of a fraternity across the street who witnessed the whole thing and came over to ask what was happening. Girls who were inside the house, and others who were friends of ours from the sorority next door, were bawling, asking us if we were okay. Every brother who wasn’t outside was asking for details from those of us who were there. The police came and everyone there gave their reports. The street on the side of our house, Richmond Avenue, was blocked off by police from its intersection at Rollins all the way down to the Gamma Phi Beta house.
Eventually, the police left to go search for the car, and those of us who were at the back door for the confrontation grabbed many a much needed beer and drank on the roof of the fraternity house for a while. The police came back a few hours later and told us they found the car. Most of the brothers involved in the shooting were either asleep or had gone home to their off-campus houses by that point. One of my pledge brothers and I, however, had elected to keep drinking and were still at the house. The police wanted us to go to the house where they found the car and identify the suspects they apprehended. My pledge brother, Road House, and I hopped into the police car and once we were at the house — which was located far south, deep in townie country — we identified the three suspects from the back seat, with the floodlight shining on them while they stood in the driveway. They were the three townies from earlier, and thankfully, they had been caught. Road House and my pledge brother later identified the three men again in a lineup, while sober.
The only mention of the shooting I could find was a report of the summons for the shooter, Marvin Dawayne Porter. No actual news story was ever written about it. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Porter was charged with armed criminal action, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and possession of a controlled substance. There was nothing in there about the girl he and his two friends followed from the bar with the intention of doing to do God knows what, had she gone back to her apartment instead of coming to the fraternity house. One other man on that list was quite possibly the driver, given the charges against him, but I can’t be sure, so I’ll exclude his name.
During the confrontation, only about half the brothers at most knew what caused the standoff. The brothers from the front yard and I didn’t have any idea we were protecting a woman from being assaulted. Considering that everything ended up happening the way it did, I think that’s probably for the best. If the call gone up through the house that three men were following and trying to attack a girl we all knew, the entire fraternity would have been out there and would have been aggressive. Maybe that would have scared off the townies sooner, or maybe it would have made them more desperate, to the point where the shooter would have actually fired into the crowd. Things worked out for the best, though. Perhaps by sheer accident, but I don’t care.
The next night Missouri annihilated Nebraska 41-6 in one of the most raucous sports environments I have ever been in. Those who were at the back door the night before were asked about the previous night by just about everyone we knew at the tailgate, and people were shocked and thankful we were okay, but by the end of Saturday night the game was all anyone could talk about. Fuck it, we were alive and everything worked out, so go Tigers. Priorities.
In the aftermath, the whole event became a running fraternity joke, because we were incapable of taking most things seriously — including being shot at. Every year on October 5th (the fifth, because we all considered the events to have happened on that Friday night) we had the pledges take shifts over the course of those twenty-four hours, standing guard at the spot where Road House lost part of his tooth, with a lit candle to commemorate the confrontation. One musically inclined pledge even wrote a ballad on his guitar in honor of the brothers who had been at the back door that fateful night. It began, “I survived, October five.”.