The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Ken Mieske, Skinhead Murderer of Ethiopian Student in 1988, Dies

By Robert Steinback on July 27, 2011 - 2:47 pm, Posted in Racist Skinheads

Ken MieskeKen Mieske – who lived up to his heavy-metal-music moniker “Ken Death” by savagely beating an Ethiopian immigrant to death with a baseball bat in Portland, Ore., in 1988 – died Tuesday in an Oregon hospital.

Mieske and two other members of a racist skinhead group called East Side White Pride (ESWP), Kyle Brewster and Steve Strasser, were involved in the beating and subsequently pleaded guilty to murder, assault and racial intimidation in the attack on graduate student Mulugeta Seraw and another Ethiopian man. The case provided the basis for a landmark Southern Poverty Law Center civil suit against White Aryan Resistance (WAR) founder Tom Metzger, one of most notorious and influential American white supremacists of the last 30 years.

Mieske, 45 – known as “Ken Death” during his days as a death-metal rock musician – had been imprisoned since his arrest. Prison officials did not give a cause of death, but according to The Oregonian, Mieske had long suffered from Hepatitis C.

On the night of Nov. 12, 1988, Mieske (mugshot below), Brewster and Strasser confronted Seraw and the other man standing near Seraw’s car, parked on a side street where he lived, according to The Oregonian. The skinhead posse screamed at the two African men to move, then attacked them. At one point, as Brewster punched Seraw, Mieske moved behind him and struck him twice on the head with a Louisville Slugger bat. As Seraw lay bleeding on the pavement, Mieske struck one more time.

The final blow “crushed his head between the bat and the hard pavement,’” said Portland police Detective Sgt. Tom Nelson, a key detective in the case, according to the newspaper.

Ken Mieske mugshot

Just three weeks prior to Seraw’s murder, Metzger emissary Dave Mazzella, head of WAR’s youth unit, the Aryan Youth Movement, had made contact with ESWP seeking to organize the skinhead group. When the news of the gruesome crime broke, Metzger praised Seraw’s killers for having done their “civic duty.”

But following their guilty plea, the SPLC sued Metzger and WAR on behalf of the victim’s family. Using the doctrine of vicarious liability, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that Metzger should be found liable for intentionally inciting the skinheads to engage in violent confrontations with minorities. A jury agreed, returning a record $12.5 million verdict against Metzger and WAR. Tom Metzger was personally responsible for $5.5 million of that sum. Metzger lost his house, truck and tools (although $45,000 was returned to him after his house was sold, under provisions of California’s Homestead Act) and was required to make monthly payments to Seraw’s estate for 20 years.

The verdict crippled Metzger’s organization, which today is little more than a website where he distributes his ideas and propaganda.

Though hobbled by the verdict, Metzger remained active and unrepentant, albeit much less influential, in the white supremacist movement of the 1990s. He was able to continue running his WAR phone hotline and the publishing of white supremacist pamphlets. Twice in the 1990s, he and his son John traveled to Japan to push their separatist views there. He also was sued in 1991 for using the Bart Simpson character on “Nazi Bart” T-shirts.

Since losing the civil trial, Metzger has been advocating that white supremacists adopt a “lone wolf” or “leaderless resistance” strategy and engage in criminal actions only individually or in small cells. He argues this will help to avoid detection by law enforcement. “Membership organizations are fraught with leaks and agents,” Metzger explained on his website.

  • Ray

    I knew Ken while in prison, we played and shared music. Prisons are full of people who made mistakes and have hurt others in horrible ways. Its easy to throw rocks, isnt it? Ive hurt a lot of people and even though Im free from prison thats something Ill have to live with the rest of my life. An individuals journey towards redemption is a deeply personal one, in prison or out. Ken made his and lived in the consequences of his actions. Theres no joy in anyones suffering, have a little compassion.

  • taylor

    Sorry, but he should have felt remorse. The man he killed didn’t have the chance to feel anything ever again after meeting Ken. Ken’s mom was able to visit him in prison and be there when he died. The man he murdered didn’t have that luxury either and let’s face it – no one picks their color so why persecute people because of it. If there is a hell he should be there along with child molesters and other human monsters.

  • ”josh”

    ken talked me into quitting the skins after I got out of OSP, he really was remorseful.

  • smit

    i was kennys cell mate for a while in oregon and he will be greatly missed. the man made difference in my life as far as to what matters in life and where not to end up. the impact he has on people is huge and i will not forget the man.

  • The Bhagwan

    I knew Ken before he got filled with all that hate.

    What can you really say? We were into drugs and girls – not hurting folks

  • K

    I am trying my hardest to have sympathy for this man. I believe that I am doing it well, but it is still hard. As an African American, these incedents are just one in many that people have to go through. THIS is domestic terrorism, I think that is something that anyone with a bit of sense can understand. Am I happy he’s dead? NO. Do I wish him an eternity in hell? Certainly not. Do I believe he was genuinely sorry… this is the part I struggle with.

    There are plenty of people who have hard lives. My boyfriend, who was a homeless gutter punk could’ve easily turned to a hate group, he could’ve easily become my enemy instead of my best friend. He didn’t. There, at some point and time has to be personal responsibility.

    I think the hardest thing to hear is that he stopped believing long ago, yet continued with his charade for fear of being killed. Yet, his victim couldn’t do that. His victim could not pretend he wasn’t black, because black is not a belief, its a chemical makeup. Nothing more. So his victim’s life was cut short, because of the ignorance of this man and the inability of his victim to pretend. Hearing that does not make me feel bad or understand him any better. It just reaffirms the choices offered to whites that will never be offered to us. And people wonder why we are able to use the N-word?!?

    I hope Mr. Mieske has found peace and forgiveness. I hope that his family find some sort of comfort somewhere, but I also hope they realize that their pain is the same pain the victims family went through. For the Mieske’s son was lost because of decisions he made, while the Seraw’s family unexpectedly lost their son because of decisions Mieske made. The only difference was the Mieske’s we able to prepare themselves for the loss. I’m sure Sewar’s family hadn’t prepared themselves to be told their loved one was beaten to death.

    I hope both are resting in peace

  • Guy Faulkes

    “There but for the grace of God go I”? I think not. Even as a rebellious teenager, intoxicated and at my worst behaviour, I would NEVER have crossed the line and murdered a total stranger for no reason. I know about peer pressure and mob mentality as incitement to anti-social activities, but vandalism is the worst I ever indulged in. Violence against another human being is NEVER excusable, no matter what the circumstances of one’s childhood or influences. Everybody has a choice at the crucial moment of decision: to give in to evil is a matter of free will. God’s grace be damned.

  • Melissa

    Glad you mentioned Gus Van Sant ~ understand he is part of the game. The occult ~ it also appears that Ken was a potential occult ritual murder based on the numerology and timing of his death. Research MK-ULTRA, Monarch programming, the true origins of the white supremacy movement which is zionist created. Gus uses mk-ultra mind control slaves in his movies ant they also portray the mind control game at it’s finest. I met Ken once in passing in 1987… victims to the heroin like most all skin heads back in that time.

  • Sharon Schaub-Ken’s Mother

    It has been a few months since my son, Ken Mieske, has passed away. It is extremely hard to know I will never see his face or hear his voice again. Do not get me wrong, I also grieve for Mr. Seraw and for his son having to grow up without knowing his father. But I want you all to know that Kenny was not an evil person, granted he had a difficult life from the moment of his birth, but that is not an excuse for what happened. He was loved deeply by me and his friends who stood by him through all these years. I was with my son on the day he died. I was the one who had to authorize his life support system be turned off. I was there until he breathed his last breath. For all you cynics out there, please know that Kenny made peace with God and prayed for forgiveness along time before he died. He was a good son, an interesting, exciting person to be around. He made a huge mistake, took a wrong turn, but regretted it and the pain he had caused his family, friends, the Seraws and his mother. He really was a loving person, just got screwed up along the way. He is at peace now and free of pain and FREE. I hope you all remember that there but for the Grace of God…this could happen to you. Love yourselfs, love your family and most of all remember to Love one another, that is after all the only thing that matters. Peace and Love to you all.

  • tiffany

    i knew Ken too…im so glad to hear he made peace with God…He wasnt a bad person at all…he got drunk one night and made a bad decision…it could happened to anyone…one night out on the town partying can change your life and someone eses forever

  • Frank Cuervo

    Kenny was a friend of mine. Nothing to do with beliefs or philosophies, just a friend. Since he was, I thought I’d point something out to the person who had such high hopes of Ken being in “Hell”… The anger, the absolute lack of influence and control that torments your soul (yes I mean you, and I don’t have to know you to know this), is the same anger that on occassion allows one to take the life of another. Assuming you’re atleast somewhat aware of the concept of hell, then your assertion contradicts itself. You see, HE took a life in an instant. Over twenty years ago. YOU, however, want to experience pleasure from the hope that maybe there is another lost life whose soul shall eternally suffer torment and unfathomable agony with no hope of salvation, no end to the ghastly screams of infinite misery. YOU desire that. It burns in your heart, stained by surrender. I bet you a million that Kenny never thought such a thing about someone. Yet you think Kenny was a bit of a prick? What stands out the most to me is that the difference between Kennys’ anger and your anger, is that eventually…
    His wore off.

    He was a good guy. Probably regretted a choice or 2, but so have I. Who hasn’t?

  • Ken Hicks

    I too knew Ken.

    But for the grace of God there go I.

    I had correspondence with him in prison. I truly believe that he was greatly sorry for his actions. He told me that he made his peace with God and one can only hope. It’s funny how much hate is displayed in some of the above posts. Other than him acting out his anger I don’t see much difference between him and the hate spewed above.

  • James

    I knew Ken Meiske personally. I knew him years before he was pulled into the white supremest movements of the day. I know many of you will find that hard to beleive, but he was more than sorry for the earlier part of his life. His regrets were legion, he confided in me personally more than once. Unfortunately he could not renounce his beliefs in while in prison lest he be killed for doing so. He did what he had to do; he lay in the bed he made for himself. He pretended, but he quit believing long, long ago. Have compassion, folks. Hatred is what makes white supremacists and the like. Enough already.

  • Chuck

    Hope that Mieske had some kinda deathbed repentance, though I doubt it.

  • Jim

    When “Kenny Loggins” was a 16 year old runaway, he was effectively recruited into the Skinhead Movement…and they helped to focus his anger and sounds like he used a dirty needle along the do you get through to marginalized teenagers who are looking for an identity that they can be proud of and get their needs met without harming others?


  • John Robinson

    I knew Ken when he was a sixteen year old runaway. he was so mellow we called him Kenny Loggins. It is easy to sit from afar considering today’s ‘violent world and judge others with beliefs that people have no remorse etc.-we all do it. What i do know is if you know anything about Ken and his childhood he really never stood much of a chance in life. Ultimately this is no excuse for his horrible actions, he made stupid choices and others payed a horrible price for them.The real victims in all this are Seraw and his family but Kenny is no Manson or Gacy and deep inside where it counts he was not evil. Will he ” rot in hell” ,perhaps but for those of you who believe in God I’ll let him and Ken figure this out-it’s beyond my pay grade.

  • George

    Since I’m an atheist, the concept of Hell is a matter of wishful thinking. Better to get those bigoted creeps in prison while there is still time. I’m all for activity now, not hopes for retribution in some hypothetical afterlife.

  • Russell Lottie

    this man and many others like him have no remorse,love,compassion or human dignity.i believe that a man like him is now gone and the tax payers dont have to take care of him anymore. I believe him and all the people deserve the same fate as their victoms.who can feel any different

  • SC

    They will NEVER accomplish the elimination of diversity. The only thing they do is spread hurt and pain. The people who do these things have never known what it is to truly love or be loved. So sad

  • MST

    JCF, you’re a better person than I am. If there is a hell, I hope this SOB is there!

  • DM

    I pray that his victim(s) such as Mulugeta Seraw have been resting in peace all of these years. I wonder what we, as a country, have lost due to vicious, hater racists, who are absent of compassion and empathy. What Mulugeta could have contributed to our society will never be realized.

    And yes, I do hope Mieske does rest in peace, same as anyone else who dies. May we never become what we do not like. May we never hate and become exactly what it is that we hate.

  • JCF

    [No mention of Gus Van Sant? He made a short film, “Ken Death Gets Out of Jail”, before Mieske murdered Seraw (and before Van Sant rocketed to prominence. I always wondered if GVS had any guilt for turning a camera on viciously-crazy racist, who would go on to kill]

    While Mieske was a despicable person (whose hate-crime turned Portland OR, upside-down while I lived there), I pray the same as I do for *anyone* who dies: may he rest in peace.