Neo-Nazi charged with killing skinhead

Victim one of two confronting trio in Mt. Washington

Seattle Post Gazette/February 10, 2000
By Dennis B. Roddy and Cindi Lash

Michael Stehle, accused of killing an Oakland man in a mysterious confrontation at a Mount Washington house filled with far-right literature, is a longtime skinhead with a history of membership in white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

Stehle, 26, currently is the leading local member and recruiter for the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group whose founder authored "The Turner Diaries," the novel that investigators say became the blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing.

He has written music reviews for the skinhead magazine "Resistance," which was purchased last year by the National Alliance's founder, William Pierce, in an effort to reach out to younger members.

"Mike has been doing a very good job out there, distributing materials and recruiting people," Pierce said in a telephone interview last night. Pierce theorized that the confrontation that led to Stehle's arrest might have been an attack by "Sharps," an acronym for skinheads against racial prejudice, people who dress and look like skinheads but don't share their racists views and who are known to get into physical confrontations with racist skinheads.

Police would not comment on whether they believed Stehle's ideologies were linked to the attack on him and his housemates early Tuesday that ended with mortal wounding of an Oakland man.

William Crowley, spokesman for the Pittsburgh FBI office, said the agency is now assisting city police in their investigation. Stehle was jailed without bond yesterday following arraignment, charged with homicide in the shooting death of Brian Hartzell, 24, of Ward Street, Oakland.

Police said that at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, Hartzell and another man knocked at the door of the three-story frame home on Mount Washington that Stehle shared with roommates Joseph Foley, 28, and Robert Reichel, 27. Hartzell and his companion claimed to be acquaintances of Reichel's and said they needed a place to stay. Once inside, police said, Hartzell pulled a handgun and his companion produced a shotgun.

Police said Reichel and Foley told them Hartzell was angry because he believed a resident of the house had beaten a friend.

Reichel escaped and ran two blocks to a gas station where he called police. As Hartzell held Foley at gunpoint in the first-floor living room, police said, Stehle came down the stairs from the second floor and fired three shots from a handgun. One shot struck Hartzell in the head and he died later at Mercy Hospital.

Hartzell's companion fled before police arrived and has not been located. The shotgun they believe he was carrying was found on the street a few blocks away.

In addition to the handguns, police said they recovered an AK-47 assault rifle as well as magazines and paraphernalia from neo-Nazi and right-wing groups.

Police said they did not know why Hartzell and his companion burst into Stehle's home.

Hartzell, who friends and family said was a member of a U.S. Marine reserve unit, had short hair and dressed like a skinhead, in suspenders, combat boots and flak jackets. But they said he did not share their racist views. "He was against Nazis; he said that much," said a manager at the Wing Pitt in Oakland, where Hartzell worked part time as a cook and driver. Blake McLaren, a friend who lives in the Oakland apartment house where Hartzell lived, said Hartzell was avowedly against racism, had a Jewish roommate and occasionally argued with racist skinheads he met at parties in the neighborhood.

Bright, personable, and without a history for confrontation, Stehle was described as "downright likeable" by Richard Ashkettle, an Oakland computer programmer who became familiar with Stehle in the 1990s. Four years ago, in a lengthy interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Stehle discussed his political beliefs, which he described as fitting none of the traditional left-wing, right-wing paradigms.

"I'm not a bird. I don't have wings," he said.

At the time, Stehle was active with a fascist group called "Clan Rook," also sometimes known as "New Dawn," which operated out of the Oakland apartment of a University of Pittsburgh student.

In the interview, Stehle spoke favorably about fascism, spoke of the need for a "white homeland" within the United States and praised The Order, a terrorist group that carried out a string of murders and robberies in the 1980s.

"I agree with their ideology to a certain extent," he said. "Their actions were premature."

He described Robert Mathews, The Order's founder, who died in a wild exchange of machine gun fire with federal agents in 1984, as "a martyr." Clan Rook and New Dawn eventually dissolved. The Web page they had posted on the University of Pittsburgh's computer system vanished and Daniel Norbeck, who led the group, eventually moved out of town. Pierce last night said he is hoping to hear from Stehle in coming days. He criticized city police, saying they should not have charged Stehle. "Armed intruders came into his home under false pretenses, pulled guns and one of them got killed," Pierce said. "We may very well have to consider getting involved in this thing."

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