LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – The manhunt for a white supremacist suspected of murdering a Lake Oswego man exploded into a nationwide search Friday.
Clackamas County sheriff’s detectives asked law enforcement agencies around the country for help, including at the federal level to find 37-year-old Erik John Meiser who they say stabbed to death 57-year-old Fredrick Hayes in front of his wife at his home early Monday morning.
According to a court document, Meiser is accused of killing Hayes after burglarizing his house.
Deputies have carefully dug through Meiser’s past and learned he travels fast and efficiently and could now be long gone from Oregon.
The sheriff’s department says they’ve reached out to police departments all over the country and have also asked for help from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and even the TSA. They want as many agencies as possible to be looking for the suspect.
But deputies say many manhunts end because one police officer or one private citizen somewhere is paying attention and recognizes the face. That's why Clackamas County deputies are also focusing on social media, asking people to re-tweet the suspect's photos and show them to their friends and family.
In fact, that's how some neighbors say they originally saw the suspect's photo this morning.
“The first thing we did was look at our smartphone, looked at the website and really analyzed the photo to have a heightened awareness of what’s going on,” said a woman named Erin.
TriMet is also sending the suspect's photo to all of its drivers, operators and field staff. Deputies say the suspect has a long history of using public transportation to move around, including public buses, trains, freight rail, and hitchhiking.
Billboards displaying Meiser's picture and the number to the tip line – 503-723-4949 – went up in the Portland area and in Salem Friday.
Clear Channel Outdoor displayed the wanted poster on four digital billboards at Highway 26 and Southwest 185th and TV Highway and Cornelius Pass Road. The company also put up three in the Salem area.
Deputies are also following up on hundreds of leads and tips and say the tips they received from the public pointed them in the direction of identifying Meiser as the suspect.
Suspect’s own ethnic background
While police say Meiser has a history of Neo-Nazi association and hate crimes, public documents and family members reveal he is a minority himself, or at least partial minority.
According to two obituaries of his relatives and confirmed by another relative, Meiser's heritage is Native American White Earth Chippewa Tribe on his mother’s side.
Two relatives said by phone Friday that despite the words "Nazi" and "Hate" tattooed on his body they've never known Meiser to be a racist while growing up in Minnesota. And they never knew him to be violent.
Meiser accused of violent crime in Utah
Police in Ogden, Utah say Meiser is wanted for slashing a man's face Sept. 8 with a "razor style knife."
Police say Meiser fled the scene after the stabbing and with the help of a witness they were able to find him nearby.
Lt. Tony Fox with the Ogden City Police Department said they spoke to Meiser at that time but were unable to establish probable cause for his arrest. A witness wasn't cooperating with the investigation.
Later, through their investigation, police were able to establish probable cause and obtained an arrest warrant for Meiser, accusing him of aggravated assault and carrying a dangerous weapon.
The victim in the case was taken to the hospital for treatment with severe cuts to his face.
Extensive criminal background
The Clackamas County sheriff's office says Meiser’s criminal history goes back to 1989.
“This is a seasoned criminal who isn’t hesitant to use violence. It’s part of his life,” said spokesman Sgt. Adam Phillips.
According to the sheriff's office and court records, Meiser's long criminal history includes burglary in Minnesota as well as assault, property damage, and a violation of a restraining order. In Wisconsin there was disorderly conduct. In Colorado: attempted vandalism. There are more convictions in Arizona, California, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
Other charges include cruelty toward a child, obscene phone calls, and ethnic intimidation.
Meiser’s family said they have had no contact with him in quite some time.
Meiser is described as 6 feet 5 inches tall, weighs between 170 and 190 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes. He also has the words “Neo Nazi” tattooed on his left knuckles.
He has the word "Hate" tattooed on his right calf and a skull and Viking on his left arm. They said the tattoos are mostly white supremacist images.
They said he was last seen with a scraggly beard.
Hayes' friends and family will hold a private celebration of life service this Sunday. It starts at two o'clock in the afternoon in the chapel of Oregon Episcopal School.