Portland Man Accused of Racist Attack on Family Doesn’t Show Up to Court Hearing

A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said it couldn’t review the case until yesterday due to the holiday weekend.

A Portland man facing bias crime charges for the assault of a family biking along the Eastbank Esplanade over the weekend failed to appear in court this morning. Police arrested him—again—shortly after 3 pm today.

During Saturday’s unprovoked attack, 34-year-old Dylan Kesterson allegedly screamed racial slurs while punching a 5-year-old girl and her father. Bystanders quickly intervened, police said, and helped them locate Kesterson who was arrested as he walked away.

The family Kesterson attacked was of Japanese descent, prosecutors said, and was visiting the city from California.

The girl was unharmed thanks to her helmet. The father was hospitalized and told police he had been punched “more times than can be counted” and was diagnosed with a minor concussion, according to a court affidavit filed Tuesday by Multnomah County prosecutors.

Kesterson faces seven charges, including fourth-degree assault as well as two counts of bias crime, Oregon’s legal term for hate crimes. Reports of anti-Asian bias crimes have risen sharply following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis of calls to the state’s hotline released by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission last week.

Kesterson, who had no prior record, pleaded not guilty and was released on pretrial supervision immediately following the attack. In an interview prior to his release, he told a court official he was unemployed and had been homeless for a year. (Police listed his last known residence as a downtown park.) He denied being on drugs and said he was not mentally ill. He was told to report back to court the following week.

Yesterday, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office added new assault charges and filed a motion to hold Kesterson without bail.

But prosecutors haven’t had a chance to argue their case. This morning, Kesterson failed to appear at a hearing and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Some questioned the decision to release an alleged perpetrator of a violent hate crime back into the community. In a statement, Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps called the attack “horrific” and said he was “concerned” that Kesterson had been released.

Duncan Hwang, interim community development director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, told WW he had “a lot of questions and concerns” about Kesterson’s release and wondered whether community safety had been adequately taken into account.

Kesterson’s public defender could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said it was not involved in the initial decision to release Kesterson and couldn’t review the case until yesterday due to the holiday weekend.

The county’s chief criminal judge, Cheryl Albrecht, issued her own statement saying the court followed the guidelines based on the charges at the time: “A person charged with Bias Crime in the First Degree who has no history of prior assault convictions may be released on conditional release.”

The Portland Police Bureau could not immediately be reached for comment on its role in releasing Kesterson.

On Wednesday afternoon, police distributed Kesterson’s mug shot and asked Portlanders for help locating him.

At 3:09 pm, an off-duty police officer saw Kesterson at the corner of Southwest 3rd Avenue and Jefferson Street—a block from PPB’s Central Precinct and the Multnomah County Justice Center. Officers arrested him one block west.

This story has been updated after police arrested Kesterson.

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