A banned YouTube video and a new complaint at City Hall have prompted a Portland police captain to speak publicly for the first time about long-standing accusations that he's a Nazi sympathizer.
Central Precinct Capt. Mark Kruger vehemently denied those allegations in an Oct. 12 interview with WW. Kruger insists he's simply a "history geek" whose public service should not be clouded by the fact that he's worn swastikas, got married 13 years ago in a town where Hitler had his mountain retreat, and built a memorial to Nazi-era German soldiers on Rocky Butte while he was a Portland cop.
A 41-year-old Army veteran, Kruger insists he's a victim of character assassination.
"This has been a tremendous torment for me [and] it's been a tremendous torment for my family," Kruger said, his eyes filling with tears. "There's not a person on the face of this earth who can legitimately criticize my contribution and my service to my country and to my community."
In his 16 years with the Police Bureau, Kruger has built a reputation as an unbending but highly capable manager. His rigid demeanor has earned him the nickname "Ice Man."
Kruger's curious hobby surfaced in 2003 and 2004, when the city was fighting several lawsuits for alleged excessive force by Kruger and other cops against antiwar protesters. The city eventually settled two of those lawsuits for $300,000. A third suit was thrown out of court.
Two of Kruger's former friends came forward to tell the plaintiffs' lawyers about Kruger's alleged fascination with Nazis. They told WW that in his youth Kruger had displayed hatred in public toward gays, Jews and racial minorities—accusations Kruger calls "bunk and hokum."
The latest chapter began Oct. 4, when one of those ex-friends, Robert Seaver, posted a video on YouTube featuring Kruger in Nazi garb. The four-minute video shows horrific images of the Holocaust and Hitler as well as contemporary photos of panicked protesters in Portland. Interspersed are photos of Kruger posing in German military gear, attending meetings in police uniform and grinning in his riot gear.
Seaver tells WW Kruger continued privately expressing hatred for minorities, the homeless and the disabled long after he became a cop. The video contains statements Seaver claims Kruger made to him, including "human life is overvalued" and cops are "nothing but garbage collectors." Kruger denies saying any of it.
Seaver, a former legal aide with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, claims he first came forward against Kruger six years ago to make amends for his own racist past. He says he posted the video out of anger at what he calls a lack of consequences for Portland cops. Seaver cites Chief Rosie Sizer's decision last month that officers were justified in their use of force against James Chasse Jr., who died of blunt-force injuries sustained during his arrest in 2006.
"I can guarantee you that what happened to James Chasse will sadly happen all over again," says Seaver, who now lives in Bandon. "Instead of taking responsibility and admitting their mistakes, the Portland Police Bureau is more interested in making excuses and rationalizations."
A case in point, Seaver says, was Sizer's decision to promote Kruger from lieutenant to captain last year.
Kruger was not among the cops who arrested Chasse, but Seaver says his continued promotions make him "a symbol of everything that is wrong at the Police Bureau."
Sizer did not respond to email and phone messages seeking comment.
By then Seaver had already complained to the city's Independent Police Review Division that Kruger violated his First Amendment rights by asking YouTube to delete the video.
Kruger says the request to pull the video came from his wife. He says it was justified because the photos were used without his permission, one image contains his police ID number, and the video accuses him of being something he's not—a Nazi.
Kruger denies long-standing allegations made by Seaver and another of Kruger' old friends, Robert Williams, that they drove around Portland together listening to Hitler speeches and shouting insults at minorities. But he agrees with several of Seaver's other accounts about their past together.
ACHTUNG: Kruger on Rocky Butte in a vintage Nazi-era German fieldcap. PHOTO: Robert Seaver
In the late 1990s, Kruger confirms he attended World War II re-enactments on the Oregon Coast, where Kruger would wear Nazi-era German uniforms. He also owns historic British and American gear.
"I am not an adherent of Adolf Hitler," Kruger says. "What I am is a person who has a profound and abiding interest in military history."
Kruger married his now ex-wife in 1996 in Berchtesgaden, Germany—home of Hitler's Berghof mountain retreat. Kruger says they chose the site for its natural beauty, not because Hitler spent most of World War II there.
And Kruger concedes he placed memorial plaques to five World War II German soldiers in 2000 or 2001 on Rocky Butte in Northeast Portland. The plaques were nailed to a tree Kruger called the "Ehrenbaum," or honor tree, overlooking the I-205 freeway. But Kruger says he later tore them down.
"I have great respect for soldiers who have demonstrated the most incredible gallantry on the field of battle," Kruger says. "[I took] some of the most significant examples in history of that gallantry and put them together."
It was, he adds, "probably the most geeky and humiliating thing that I've ever done in my entire life."
The YouTube video that was pulled is available here (.mp4). Audio highlights from the interview are below:
In the late 1980s, Seaver fell in love with Diane Downs, who was serving a life sentence for shooting her three children in 1983, killing one. Seaver plotted to spring Downs from prison, then testified against her in 1990.