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Man who punched 5-year-old and father charged with hate crime, police say

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A man has been charged with a bias crime, or hate crime, after prosecutors said he shouted racial slurs and physically attacked a 5-year-old and her father, who are of Japanese descent, on Saturday on a bicycle path in Portland, Ore.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced in a statement Tuesday that Dylan Kesterson, 34, has been charged with harassment, assault and multiple counts of bias crime in the attack. Authorities said a California father, mother and their daughter were riding bikes on the Eastbank Esplanade when Kesterson approached them, punching the father in the head and then punching the child in the helmet she was wearing at the time. Kesterson stopped when passersby intervened, authorities said.

The father, who has not been publicly identified, was treated at a hospital, but the girl did not sustain any injuries.

Kesterson was arrested not far from the scene.

An attorney listed for Kesterson in the court records did not immediately respond Wednesday morning to an email from The Washington Post requesting comment. Phone numbers listed for Kesterson were no longer in service.

The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

Under Oregon law, a bias crime — or hate crime — is defined as a crime in which a person “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes physical injury to another person because of the person’s perception of the other person’s race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.”

After his arrest Saturday, Kesterson was released by the court on pretrial supervision and did not show up to his detention hearing Wednesday morning, said Elisabeth Shepard, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

A bench warrant has been issued for his arrest, and the district attorney will request that he be held without bail, Shepard said.

Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps (D), who called the incident “horrific” and “unacceptable,” has expressed concern that Kesterson was released from jail on the same day that he was arrested. “We have got to bring back public safety in this town,” he said in a statement Wednesday to The Post.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) has since contacted the family, his office told The Post.

“I am outraged and disgusted by the assault that occurred on the Eastbank Esplanade,” he said in a statement. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior in our community.”

The mayor added that he plans to request that the district attorney “pursue maximum penalty.”

Covid fueled anti-Asian racism. Now elderly Asian Americans are being attacked.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise in the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Early last year, there was a surge of attacks in Northern California, including one in which an 84-year-old Thai man died after being shoved to the ground.

Then a March 2021 shooting at three Atlanta-area spas left eight people dead, including six Asian women — sparking debate about whether the rampage, carried out by a White man, was considered a hate crime.

The shooter, Robert Aaron Long, was sentenced to life in prison.

Other incidents have made headlines this year. In March, a 67-year-old Asian woman in New York was punched in the head and face more than 125 times, stomped and spit on in what authorities called a “brutal” hate crime. Surveillance video showed a man, identified by authorities as Tammel Esco, punch the woman from behind, knocking her down, then continue to beat her until she was writhing on the ground.

In May, the FBI opened a federal hate-crime investigation into a shooting at an Asian-run salon in Dallas

After Saturday’s attack in Portland, Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who oversees the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, called it a “terrifying event” and apologized to those who were victimized.

“No one should ever fear for their safety/security — whether visiting our city or living here,” she tweeted.

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