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Man accused of attacking a tourist family pleads not guilty to bias crime

KPTV Portland logo KPTV Portland 7/6/2022 Connor McCarthy
The Eastbank Esplanade along the Willamette River. © Provided by KPTV Portland The Eastbank Esplanade along the Willamette River.

PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The man accused of attacking a family visiting Portland over the weekend, pleaded not guilty to a list of charges, including two counts of bias crime Tuesday.

Portland police arrested 34-year-old Dylan Kesterson on Saturday after he allegedly attacked a family who is of Japanese descent. Ryuichiro Abe was visiting Portland for the holiday weekend from California after friends recommended the city as a good getaway. In a long email he sent FOX 12, Abe described the attack.

Abe said he, his wife, and his 5-year-old daughter rented a four-wheel tandem bike to ride on the city’s waterfront Saturday afternoon. It was when they were riding along the Eastbank Esplanade that Kesterson allegedly came out of nowhere and started yelling racial slurs at the family. Abe said Kesterson punched him in the head more than 50 times. He then turned to Abe’s daughter and punched her in the head as well.

People nearby intervened and were able to get Kesterson to stop. Portland police then arrived and arrested Kesterson. Abe said he went to a local hospital and is doing OK. His daughter was very nervous to leave the hotel room for dinner. Abe said they’re back in California now, but they’re not returning to Portland anytime soon.

Duncan Hwang is the Interim Community Director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. He said it’s heartbreaking that a family trying to enjoy Portland on vacation, was attacked allegedly over their ethnicity.

“This has been a disturbing trend that’s been accelerating over the last couple of years,” Hwang said.

His organization, along with other Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocacy groups released a study in April about bias crimes against the community. The survey found that almost half AAPI Oregonians experienced some sort of microaggressions, bias, or hate crime.

“I think it was certainly surprising how intense it’s been,” Hwang said. “Those numbers were really revealing just because we saw this uptick in the numbers but we didn’t realize just how much of an undercount there really was.”

Just last month, a group of AAPI business owners met with local leaders to talk about safety in their community. Many of them believe the crime they experience is racially motivated. Hwang said his organization’s main office has also been hit by vandalism.

“We hear about incidents almost every other week. Even our offices at APANO were vandalized a couple of weeks ago,” Hwang said.

Hwang said he hopes more Oregonians in the AAPI community will speak up about the hate they’ve experienced.

“I think even just getting a sense of the scale of what’s happening is an important first step to really kind of figuring out what we’re going to do about it over the long term,” Hwang said.

Kesterson’s next court appearance will be Wednesday morning. He is charged with attempted assault in the second degree, assault in the fourth degree, two counts of bias crime in the first degree, attempted assault in the third degree, bias crime in the second degree, and harassment.

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