Mulugeta Seraw

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Mulugeta Seraw
Born(1960-10-21)October 21, 1960
Debre Tabor, Ethiopia
DiedNovember 13, 1988(1988-11-13) (aged 28)
Portland, Oregon, United States
Cause of deathBlunt trauma from baseball bat
Known forKilled by members of East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance
ChildrenOne son, Henock Seraw

Mulugeta Seraw (Amharic: ስራው ሙሉጌታ, Seraw Mulugeta; October 21, 1960 – November 13, 1988) was an Ethiopian student who went to the United States to attend college. He was 28 when he was murdered by three white supremacists in November 1988 in Portland, Oregon. They were convicted, and Mulugeta's father and son--who was six years old--filed (and won) a civil lawsuit against the killers and an affiliated organization, holding them liable for the murder. (Mulugeta did not have a surname; "Seraw" is a patronymic -- the first name of his father).


On the night of November 12, 1988, Kenneth Murray "Death" Mieske, Kyle Brewster, and Steve Strasser, members of groups known as East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance (WAR), were driving around Portland with their girlfriends, intending to return home. The three confronted two black men, including Mulugeta, who had been dropped off in front of his apartment.[1] Mulugeta was beaten to death with a baseball bat on Southeast 31st Avenue.[2] The three perpetrators and their girlfriends left him in a puddle of blood. He died the next day.

Mieske said he, Brewster, and Strasser killed Mulugeta "because of his race."[3] In response, hundreds of people turned out for rallies against racism. Meanwhile, Tom Metzger, head of WAR, said the supremacists did a "civic duty" by killing the Ethiopian student.[4]

After one week of investigation,. Mieske, Brewster, and Strasser were arrested. Brewster and Strasser were convicted of manslaughter and assault. Brewster was released in November 2002, but in 2006 violated parole and was sent back to prison.[5]

In 1990, Mieske was convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence; he died on July 26, 2011 at the age of 45. At the time of his death, he was still being referred to as a "Prisoner of War" by white power groups.[6]

In October 1990, Mulugeta's father and son, represented at no cost by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League,[7] won a civil case against White Aryan Resistance's operator Tom Metzger and his son John Metzger for a total of $12.5 million.[8][9] The cost of the trial, which measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,[10] was absorbed by the SPLC and the ADL.[11] As Metzger was unable to cover the damages, the Seraws' lawyer decided to file legal documents in order to have his Fallbrook, California home and his assets seized.[12] As a result, the house was transferred to Seraw's estate for a value of $121,500; Metzger was allowed to keep $45,000 under California's Homestead Act.[13] Metzger was warned that any damage caused to the house would result in a lawsuit; nonetheless, he chose to leave the property "a mess" with cracked windows, but apparently did not cause any serious damage.[13] The Metzgers declared bankruptcy, but WAR continued to operate. Metzger himself was forced to move into an apartment and collect welfare. He still makes payments to Seraw's family.[14]

Reaction to The Murder[edit]

In the same year, approximately 18 months after Mulugeta's death, 1,500 people attended a rally along the South Park Blocks.[15][16] Among the participants were assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Brown, prosecuting deputy district attorney Norm Frink, Margaret Carter, Bud Clark, and several city commissioners, as well as at least five members of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.[7][15] 150 police officers were on hand, as up to 300 skinheads were expected to oppose the rally; previously, the largest numbers of police officers needed for Portland events were for an Elvis Presley concert in 1957, in which 90 officers took part, and a Run-DMC concert in 1987.[15] Bomb disposal squads, bomb-sniffing dogs, riot police, and a police helicopter were used, but the rally occurred without any major incident.[15][17]

Also in 1990, members of the Oregon chapter of the American Leadership Forum formed an "experiential" anti-discrimination youth camp in response to Seraw's death. Operating from 1990 to 2002, Camp Odyssey facilitated a week-long journey for teenagers in the Pacific Northwest, examining systems of oppression and fostering communication amongst a widely diverse group of participants. In early 2010, a small group of alumni formed a not-for-profit organization called The Piece, overseeing the revival of Camp Odyssey, which was projected to occur in the summer of 2011.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Three Are Charged in Attack Attributed to Neo-Nazi Gang". New York Times. November 21, 1988. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  2. ^ "Lawyer makes racists pay". McLean, Va: USA Today. October 24, 1990. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  3. ^ "Guilt Admitted in Racial Killing". New York Times. May 3, 1989. Retrieved November 18, 2007.
  4. ^ "Making War on WAR". Time. October 22, 1990. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  5. ^ Herzog, Boaz, "Man in Infamous Hate-Crime Killing Arrested on Violation of Parole Terms", The Oregonian, May 20, 2006
  6. ^ "".
  7. ^ a b Rollins, Michael (October 6, 1990). "Police greet Sharp five, expect more skinheads". The Oregonian. pp. C02.
  8. ^ The jury divided the judgement against the defendants as follows: Kyle Brewster, $500,000; Ken Mieske, $500,000;, John Metzger, $1 million; WAR, $3 million; Tom Metzger, $5 million; in addition, the jury awarded $2.5 million for Mulugeta's unrealized future earnings and pain and suffering.
  9. ^ London, Robb (October 26, 1990). "Sending a $12.5 Million Message to a Hate Group". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  10. ^ Morris Dees and Steve Fiffer. Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. Villard Books, 1993. page 116
  11. ^ Morris Dees and Steve Fiffer. Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. Villard Books, 1993. page 277
  12. ^ "Assets of White Supremacist Are Target of Legal Maneuver". The New York Times. December 25, 1990. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  13. ^ a b "Metzger Leaves Former Home a Mess, but It's Undamaged". The Oregonian. September 19, 1991. p. f3.
  14. ^ The Press-Enterprise: "Hate-crime case award will be hard to collect, experts say", archived from the original on May 20, 2011, retrieved August 25, 2007
  15. ^ a b c d Snell, John (October 8, 1990). "1,500 rally against prejudice". The Oregonian. p. A01.
  16. ^ Rollins, Michael (October 4, 1990). "Police brace for turbulence at white supremacist trial". The Oregonian. p. D01.
  17. ^ Manzano, Phil; Michael Rollins; Holley Gilbert (October 8, 1990). "People from melting pot that makes America rally against bigotry". The Oregonian. pp. A05.

Further reading[edit]

  • Morris Dees. Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. Villard, (February 23, 1993) ISBN 0-679-40614-X (280 pages)

External links[edit]