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

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

Dylan J. Kesterson, 34, was arrested shortly after attacking the father and his daughterthat Saturday afternoon cycling along the Eastbank Esplanade.

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

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

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

“We thought we might be killed,” the male victim said during Kesterson’s hearing. “This is a very horrible experience for us and if he is released we think many Japanese and other Asians will be injured.”

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

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“All my friends recommended that I visit Portland because it is a good city. But for us it’s hard to visit there anymore,” said the victim.

The family has since returned to California. The incident reportedly traumatized their daughter and they are unlikely to ever visit Portland again.

City Commissioner Carmen Rubio has publicly apologized for the incident, saying, “Everyone deserves to feel welcome and included, and to meet a Portland that is free of racial prejudice and hatred — especially children.”

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Kesterson, who was incarcerated in Multnomah County Jail, has been released on orders from a judge, police said. NBC News† He is due to appear in court today.

Featured image via KATU

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