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Police said Utah teen tried to host 'Project X' party that ended in shooting
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Clearfield teen whose large party ended in a hail of gunfire was apparently trying to mimic a bash portrayed in a recently released movie, Clearfield police said Tuesday.

And like the plot in the Hollywood film "Project X," the 16-year-old's party also ended badly, as what may have seemed like a good idea spiraled out of control and ended in chaos. The Clearfield teen's party ended, Lt. Adam Malan said Tuesday, when rival gang members showed up and opened fire, injuring not only the 16-year-old but three other party-goers.

"These kids are trying to mimic these movies," Malan said. "It works in Hollywood [so let us try]. You see the outcome and it's horrible."

"Project X" — an R-rated movie released in theaters March 2 — tells the fictional story of an unpopular teen who decides to throw a party while his parents were out of town. The party involves DJs, a bounce house, naked girls, two underage security guards armed with Tasers and lots of alcohol and marijuana. "Project X" ends with police trying to subdue an out-of-control drug dealer, who has set fire to half the neighborhood.

Malan said that city police responding to parties isn't unusual, but one "of this magnitude" is. The teen's party drew people from multiple counties and cities, and even some adults.

Malan said the Clearfield girl's parents had left town for the weekend and she decided to throw a party at their home near 150 North and 1200 West. She reportedly sent a friend a text message announcing she was hosting a "Project X" party and to pass the word. Malan said the friend provided police a copy of the text.

And word of the party spread like wildfire.

"[We're] not sure if she was intending on that many people showing up," Malan said, estimating, at the very least, that 100 people had shown up by the time the shooting started.

Among those who crashed the party as word spread were people affiliated with a gang, he said. Another gang allegedly got wind that their rivals were there and decided to pay a visit armed with guns. At least one of the gang members opened fire and shot four people, police said. The four wounded partiers had no gang affiliations and weren't the intended targets, Malan said.

The 16-year-old who hosted the party was shot in the foot. Brandon Backus, 19, of Roy, was shot in the head. Sosha Pondel, 21, of Riverdale, was shot in the back. Evan Ward, 19, of Layton, was shot in the throat. Malan said Ward remained hospitalized Tuesday.

Police were continuing to search for the shooter Tuesday afternoon.

As police responded and the shots rang out, at least half the partygoers tried to flee.

One neighbor told police that "it sounded like a herd of elephants were climbing over his fence," Malan said.

He said officers detained more than 40 people connected to the party. They arrested seven juveniles and six adults — all of whom tested positive for alcohol — on suspicion of unlawful consumption/possession of alcohol.

Malan said police continue to investigate who provided the alcohol for the under-age teen's party.

"We haven't determined who brought the alcohol or whether it was already provided," he said.

Malan said he wasn't certain if the parents could face any criminal charges for their daughter's activities.

Though he acknowledged that some neighbors have expressed concerns that the gang members might retaliate, he said the family has no gang ties, so police don't expect retaliation.

Police departments across the nation have reported a number of "Project X"-themed parties popping up in their communities, media reports indicate.

In Houston, a "Project X" party turned fatal after nearly 1,000 people showed up and someone allegedly started shooting at random, police said. An 18-year-old died.

In other communities, including Florida, a teen planned a similar party in an abandoned house, and while police stopped it before it could take place, the teen allegedly trashed the home, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

In a statement to ABCNews earlier this week, Warner Bros., the film's distribution studio called copycat parties "deplorable."

"It goes without saying that 'Project X' is a fictional movie and that Warner Bros. does not condone — and strongly discourages — anyone from attempting to imitate conduct portrayed by actors in a controlled environment during the filming of a motion picture."

jstecklein@sltrib.com

Twitter @sltribjanelle

Clearfield • The movie has inspired copycats across the nation.
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