Profiles of 10 Racist Skinheads

Racist skinhead culture has long brimmed with violence and venom.

Kenneth Mieske

Kenneth Mieske, 41
The first inkling of the fury that lurked inside Kenneth Mieske came when he was not quite 3. One day, when his adoptive mother sent the boy to time out in his bedroom after a minor incident, the diaper-clad tot took less than two minutes to strip the bed of sheets, tear down the curtains and upend a chest of drawers. The toddler's strength stunned her, as did the force of his anger. It was a rage, Mieske's mother told author Elinor Langer, that would only build with time.

As Mieske later wrote in his poem, "Senseless Violence": "Victims all around me/I feel nothing but hate/Bashing their brains in/Is my only trade/Senseless violence is the only thing I know/Piles of corpses never ending, watch them grow/Kill my victims for pleasure and for fun/Beat them over the head. Shoot them with my gun/Line them up against a wall. Shoot them. Watch them die/I love to hear the agony, they vomit, scream, and cry."

As a young adolescent in Portland, Ore., Mieske got into Satanism and began using drugs. A friend later said that roughhousing with Mieske was "like playing with a Doberman." In 1984, he began playing in local death metal bands. A fellow musician gave him the prophetic nickname "Ken Death."

In 1986, when he was 21, Mieske went to prison for burglary. Inside, he immersed himself in the hate-filled theology of Christian Identity. By the time he was released in fall of 1987, the skinhead scene in Portland (and the nation) was on the rise, with established gangs whose numbers were growing. Mieske joined East Side White Pride (ESWP), an affiliate of Tom Metzger's White Aryan Resistance (WAR). He also became lead vocalist of the death metal band, Machine. In September of that year, Metzger sent Dave Mazzella, vice president of WAR's youth arm, to Portland to spur ESWP on to commit brutal assaults, a tactic that culminated in the infamous November 1988 murder of Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw.

Mieske and two other ESWP skinheads were drinking beer and party-hopping on a Saturday night when they turned onto a street they found partially blocked by another car. Seraw, a graduate student, was being dropped off by two friends who were also Ethiopian immigrants. The skins begin yelling at the other car to move, flashing their headlights. When they realized the race of those blocking their path, the night took an irrevocable turn. The Ethiopians and the skins both got out of their cars. Mieske smashed the taillights and right rear window of the Ethiopians' car with a baseball bat. Then he brought the bat down on Seraw's head. Seraw crumpled to the ground, where Mieske hit him again, then again, splitting his skull and killing him.

All three of the ESWP skins — Mieske, Kyle Brewster (see blotter) and Steven Strasser -- were arrested and later pleaded guilty to murder, assault, and racial intimidation. Mieske was sentenced to life in prison. In a subsequent civil suit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a jury returned a $12.5 million verdict against Metzger and WAR for encouraging ESWP members to commit violence.

Mieske will be eligible for parole in 2018. Racist skinhead crews and neo-Nazi websites still honor him as a "Prisoner of War."