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Portland mayor says top-to-bottom review of Oregon criminal justice system is required.

COURTESY PHOTO: KOIN 6 NEWS - The Eastbank Esplanade near where the July 2 attack took place.

Mayor Ted Wheeler is calling for a "top to bottom" review of the Oregon criminal justice system after a hate-crime suspect who allegedly assaulted a father and daughter was released from jail the same day he was arrested.

"It is outrageous that someone accused of a violent bias crime against a parent and child would be released before appearing before a judge," Wheeler said in a Thursday, July 7, news release. "The criminal justice system needs to be reviewed from top to bottom to ensure that individuals like this are not released prematurely."

COURTESY PHOTO: MCSO - Dylan J. Kesterson

Wheeler called for Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt to pursue the maximum charges against the suspect, Dylan J. Kesterson, 34. He was arrested on Saturday, July 2, after allegedly attacking a father and daughter on the Eastbank Esplanade in Southeast Portland because he perceived them to be Japanese.

Kesterson was released the same day because he did not have any prior convictions. Under Senate Bill 48, passed by the 2021 Oregon Legislature, he could not be held in custody.

The new law essentially went into effect July 1, one day before the assault, after the Oregon Chief Justice of the Supreme Court issued guidelines to local circuit courts on how to decide if someone should be held in custody before their trial. Multnomah County Circuit Court issued a similar order.

According to the bill text, the new law is intended to reduce the reliance on security payments, or bail, to be used to ensure someone appears for their next court date.

"The purpose of bail or security or actually just jailing someone is simply to ensure their future appearance," said Josh Marquis, a former district attorney in Clatsop County.

Kesterson was expected in court July 5 for his arraignment. When he did not show up, a warrant was issued for his arrest. At 3:09 p.m. on June 6, an off-duty officer saw Kesterson in the area of Southwest Third Avenue and Jefferson Street. He called two other officers who were in uniform at the Multnomah County Courthouse nearby for a hearing. The officers walked over and caught up with Kesterson at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street, where they arrested him. He was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on his outstanding warrant.

Police say the investigation started on July 2, three tourists from California — a dad, wife and daughter — rented bikes from Kerr Bikes at the Salmon Springs station. Around 3:34 p.m., the suspect, Kesterson, allegedly commented the family was of Japanese descent and began hitting the 36-year-old father in the head before repeatedly punching the 5-year-old girl in her bike helmet. Witnesses jumped in to intervene, and Kesterson began walking away. Officers found him nearby and arrested him.

Kesterson was booked into jail on first- and second-degree bias crime charges. As of Sunday, however, jail records did not list his name on the roster.

Portland Commissioner Mingus Mapps condemned the incident and said Kesterson was released from jail on the same day he was booked. His office released the following statement to KOIN 6 News:

"A bias attack on a father and 5-year-old is horrific and unacceptable. My heart goes out to the family. We have got to bring back public safety in this town. I appreciate the work of the Portland Police Bureau in arresting this individual. I am concerned that he was released from jail the same day he was arrested."

KOIN 6 News learned Wheeler also has reached out to the victims. The mayor said he was outraged and disgusted by the incident and said he will ask Schmidt to pursue the maximum penalty.

"When crime happens to you, it changes your life," said Wheeler's Chief of Staff Bobby Lee. "You are never the same after you've been victimized."

Portland Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who heads the city's Office of Equity and Human Rights, said everyone should feel welcome here — tourists and Portlanders alike.

Her office released the following statement to KOIN 6 News and on Twitter:

"I'm so sorry our guests were subject to this terrifying event and I want to personally apologize to them. No one should ever have to fear for their safety and security — whether visiting our city or living here. Everyone deserves to feel welcomed and belonging, and encounter a Portland free of racial bias and hate — especially children. Crimes like this are clear indicators of where our work and focus needs to be and why local governments working together to address our shared community issues is important."

The father and daughter were hurt but didn't need medical attention, police said.

This incident comes less than a month after the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Portland held a call to action to shine a light on a recent spike in Asian-targeted crime and hate within the Jade District.

Stephen Ying, the CCBA executive director, said he's "never seen this much hatred toward Asians."

"Hearing that a child was struck in the face from a person who is just out to cause hate is about as bad as it gets," Kerr Bikes co-manager Miles Dornfeld told KOIN 6 News.

He said when he heard what happened to the family and how emotional they were when they returned their rentals, he said he felt compelled to share kind words with the 5-year-old and let her know they are welcome here in Portland.

"That's a horrible, traumatic experience, right, and that's probably all that's on her mind," Dornfeld said. "So I think that comforting words of affirmation like, 'People love you, people care about you, no matter what race you are,' is the main point to hone in on here."

A previous Portland Tribune story on the incident can be found here.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.


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