Portland man accused of punching 5-year-old girl because he thought she was Japanese pleads not guilty

A man accused of punching a father and his 5-year-old daughter in Portland because he thought they were Japanese has pleaded not guilty to bias crime and other charges.

Dylan J. Kesterson, 34, was arrested shortly after allegedly attacking the father and his daughter, who were riding bikes along the Eastbank Esplanade on Saturday afternoon.

Police said Kesterson approached the family and “made comments about his perception that they were of Japanese descent.” He allegedly started punching the 36-year-old father in the head in front of his daughter and wife.

Kesterson then turned his attention to the daughter, allegedly punching her helmet-protected head several times. The man’s wife was not reported to be assaulted.

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Kesterson has been charged with fourth-degree assault, second-degree attempted assault, third-degree attempted assault, two counts of first-degree bias crime, second-degree bias crime and harassment. He pleaded not guilty to all counts on Tuesday.

“We felt we might be killed,” the male victim said at Kesterson’s arraignment hearing. “This is a very horrible experience for us and if he’s released, we believe a lot of Japanese and other Asians will be injured.”

The victim told KGW that Kesterson yelled anti-Asian slurs before escalating to physical violence. He said the suspect hit him in the head “more than 50 times.”

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“Every one of my friends recommended me to visit Portland because it is a good city. But for us, it is hard to visit there anymore,” the victim was quoted as saying.

The family has since returned to California. The incident reportedly left their daughter traumatized, and it is unlikely that they will visit Portland ever again.

City Commissioner Carmen Rubio has issued a public apology over the incident, saying, “Everyone deserves to feel welcomed and belonging, and encounter a Portland free of racial bias and hate — especially children.”

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Kesterson, who was booked into the Multnomah County Jail, has been released following a judge’s order, according to NBC News. He is scheduled to appear in court today.

Featured Image via KATU

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