Penthouse Retrospective

by Charles Thompson and Allan Sonnenschein Originally Published: October, 1990

College Football History | 30 Years Ago This Month

I didn’t know what Jerry was going to do next. I thought I’d better get out of there, too, and started to hop off. Jerry got up and I tried to sneak to the other side of the room to hide. I was scared shit. There were more bullets in the gun. He walked past me and saw me standing against the wall. He looked at me and I said, “Jerry, put that gun away before you do something stupid” it wasn’t registering in me that he’d already done something stupid. “Jerry, I’m your friend. Please put the gun away,” I said, but he grabbed me and pushed me away, and headed out the door to our apartment downstairs.

I panicked. Kori was still in the room and Jerry and she did not get along. I got to the room and Kori was waiting for me: “Jerry came in,” she said, “and tried to trap me. He’s gone crazy.” I got someone to take her out of the room and then tried to find Jerry. I didn’t have to look long, because he was soon back in the room kicking and throwing shit all over the place. I had just gotten my clothes out of the cleaners and he had kicked Cokes and pizza all over them. The place was a mess and I was pissed off. “You dumb motherfucker,” I screamed at him, “you need to cut this shit out. Go put that fucking gun somewhere before you make things worse than they are. You dumb piece of shit!” Jerry’s back was turned, so he wheeled around and pointed the gun at my head. I turned around and walked away, snarling, “Get out of the way, motherfucker,” thinking that if he was going to shoot me, it might as well be in the back of the head.

When I got out to the street, somone said, “I hope Zarak’s okay.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Man, don’t you know? He shot him. Jerry shot him.”

It still hadn’t dawned on me that Zarak had been shot. It was so weird; I was there, but I hadn’t believed what my eyes had seen.

I went upstairs. Zarak was lying in bed with blood pouring out of him, moaning, “Man, why did that nigger go crazy? Why did he do it? Why, why, why did he go crazy?”

When I went back out, the police and an ambulance had arrived. When they got to Zarak’s room, he wouldn’t tell them who’d shot him. They went around the dorm checking the rooms. Jerry had gone to the room of another defensive back on the team. Reggie Finch, the brother of my former roommate Lonnie, was in the room with them when the police got there. The cops had their guns out, and when the defensive back saw them, he lost control and pissed all over himself. Jerry surrendered without a fight.

Zarak was rushed to the hospital and survived, the bullet lodged in a rib. Despite the amount of blood he had lost, the doctors listed him in stable condition and decided not to remove the bullet. Jerry was taken to the Cleveland County Detention Center in Norman, where he pleaded no contest to the shooting charge and served 82 days in jail with two years probation. The media didn’t know what to make of the shooting and decided that Jerry shot Zarak because the two had had an argument over a borrowed cassette. No, it was dumber than that — it was because of a haircut. Looking back, I’m very sorry that I allowed myself to get so angry at Zarak because he delayed cutting my hair, and about making a big deal about it to Jerry, but I never expected Jerry to shoot Zarak.

“After the shooting we were told to get the guns out because they were coming around to check,” Jerry Parks told me later. “I know for a fact that at least seven players had rifles and pistols. There were handguns everywhere. Some of the coaches had to have known about them. One time we came through with three rifles in the middle of the day. Right in front of the dorms. We parked in the parking lot and came between the coaches’ offices and the dorm and we didn’t have covers for the rifles. One coach said something to the effect of “Y’all need to have cases for those rifles.’

After the shooting the university froze me out. I was going to tell everything I knew about Bud Hall, but my lawyer told me, “No, no, no, he ain’t pressing charges. Just keep quiet, say nothing. Don’t give the university a bad image.’ And I said, “Fuck the university.’ Shit, they were talking about sending me to jail for ten years. This university is going to be here until the day I die. It was the same thing with [you]. The federal attorney wanted [you] to go to jail.”

What angered me after the shooting was the position of the school, especially that of acting president David Swank, who refused to acknowledge any responsibility for what had happened: “At the University of Oklahoma we go to great lengths to protect our students. Possession or use of a firearm on the O.U. campus is in violation of the student code. In enforcing the student code, the University of Oklahoma is more stringent on student athletes than any other students, with frequent room visitations by members of the coaching staff.”

That was Swank’s statement on behalf of the school, and it was a joke. If the school administration was leaving the policing of Bud Hall up to the coaches, they might just as well have left it up to the athletes. The coaches rarely came to the dorm, and they were as aware of the violations as I was. Bud Hall was a 24-hour revolving door of girls, students, and strangers. Nobody checked on us — in fact, none of the players thought it necessary to hide their guns. They hid their alcohol and drugs only because they didn’t want them stolen.

Sport to some. Abusive to the point of near slavery to others. Near to religion for even more. College Football checks all those boxes.

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