New allegations about a city police officer raises a dicey question at City Hall: How do you deal with a cop who, at the very least, has a thing for swastikas?
The activities of Sgt. Mark Kruger, a prominent figure at anti-war protests, came to light after lawyer Alan Graf and the National Lawyers Guild filed a lawsuit against the city, naming several cops, including Kruger.
Learning of the suit, one of Kruger's former friends, Robert Williams, contacted Graf, alleging that in the 1980s Williams sat in the back seat as Kruger drove around town with a guy named Bob Seaver listening to Hitler speeches and yelling racist and homophobic statements at people ("The Badge and the Swastika," WW, Oct. 1, 2003).
Kruger has since admitted wearing Nazi uniforms, explaining that he is a history buff, but denies ever engaging in racist activities or holding Nazi beliefs.
Seaver, Kruger's longtime friend, disagrees. Until recently he declined requests for interviews, but now he is breaking his silence--to atone for his past transgressions, he says. His account echoes Williams' allegations and updates them--with videotape.
According to Seaver, as teens he and Kruger spray-painted Nazi graffiti such as "Heil Hitler" and "SS Rules" on Rocky Butte. The graffiti, some of which appears on an old video documenting the spray-painting activities, remains there today.
What's more, Seaver, who says he met with Kruger until recently, claims the officer's activities continued into his adulthood. He says that in 1999, employed by the Portland Police Bureau, Kruger built a shrine on Rocky Butte called "The Ehrenbaum," or the Honor Tree, which honored five Nazi soldiers. Graf's investigator, in an affidavit, says he couldn't find the shrine but found screws on the ground where Seaver said it had been attached to a tree.
Seaver's affidavit also makes allegations about Kruger's attitude toward several mini-controversies:
* In August 2002, TV cameras caught Kruger pepper-spraying Channel 12 camerawoman Beth English point-blank in the face, sending her to the hospital ("Red-Pepper Blues," WW, Aug. 28, 2002). According to Seaver's affidavit, Kruger laughed about that spraying, saying he would probably never be identified.
* In March 2003, The Oregonian photographed Kruger grabbing a young female protester by the face because she swore at him, shoving her into a police van. Seaver claims Kruger said he planned to order a copy of the photo so he could frame it.
* That same month, the local Indymedia website posted photos of Kruger pepper-spraying a young female protester as she shrieked in terror, after which Kruger appeared to laugh about it with a fellow officer ("Tales of the Tape," WW, April 2, 2003). Seaver says Kruger had him post a response: "Never Question Authority!"
Seaver told WW he doesn't think Kruger's views have changed much. "I think Mark is somebody who is very entrenched right now," he says. "But I would hope that someday he would maybe reconnect with humanity and understand that the things I've seen and helped him do were very wrong."
Asked about the case, Mayor Vera Katz, replying through spokesman Scott Farris, said she "does not have any personal knowledge of this case and therefore does not want to comment."
Bob Hornstein, of the Jewish Federation of Portland, said he had no knowledge of the case. But given the allegations, he said, "If these charges are true it would be very troubling, obviously."