December 11, 2023


THOUSAND OAKS — Southern California authorities investigating the dying of a Jewish man following a confrontation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator over the Israel-Hamas battle haven’t decided whether or not against the law occurred and on Tuesday requested for the general public’s assist to unravel what occurred.

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff mentioned deputies decided that Paul Kessler, 69, who died early Monday at a hospital, had fallen backward and struck his head on the bottom at a pro-Palestinian demonstration Sunday afternoon in 1000’s Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles.

The professional-Palestinian demonstrator stayed on the scene and informed deputies he had known as 911, Fryhoff mentioned.

Fryhoff mentioned investigators had been getting conflicting info from witnesses on each side about what occurred earlier than the autumn and had not dominated out the potential for a hate crime. No arrests have been made, and officers had been asking for individuals to supply video footage if they’ve any.

“What precisely transpired previous to Mr. Kessler falling backward isn’t crystal clear proper now,” Fryhoff mentioned, including that it’s additionally unclear how many individuals had been concerned.

He cautioned individuals to not leap to conclusions, and “chorus from spreading rumors or spreading misinformation on social media or different platforms, as that may not solely hinder our investigation, however it may well trigger pointless panic in our group.”

Demonstrations have been widespread and tensions are escalating in america because the dying toll rises within the Israel-Hamas battle. Final month a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed 26 occasions by his landlord in what authorities have mentioned was in response to escalating right-wing rhetoric on the battle. In Ventura County alone there have been 21 demonstrations because the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on Israel, Fryhoff mentioned.

Kessler was amongst a gaggle of pro-Israel demonstrators who confirmed up on the occasion that was marketed as a peaceable gathering to assist Palestinians, Fryhoff mentioned. About 75 individuals in whole had been there and patrols within the space reported seeing no indication of violence quarter-hour earlier than the altercation occurred, Fryhoff mentioned.

Deputies discovered Kessler bleeding from the pinnacle and mouth and he was acutely aware as he was transported to the hospital, Fryhoff mentioned. A professional-Palestinian demonstrator stayed to inform deputies he had been concerned within the confrontation with Kessler and had known as 911 after he fell, Fryhoff mentioned.

The professional-Palestinian protester is 50 years outdated and resides within the close by metropolis of Moorpark, Fryhoff mentioned, including that officers weren’t releasing his title at the moment. He was detained briefly for questioning and authorities have searched his dwelling.

Ventura County Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Younger mentioned on the information convention Tuesday that an post-mortem discovered Kessler died from a blunt pressure head trauma, and that the accidents had been in step with a fall. Kessler additionally had accidents that “may very well be constant” with a blow to the face, however it’s unclear what brought on his fall, Younger mentioned.

Kessler was injured on the left aspect of his face and again of his head. He had cranium fractures and swelling and bruising of the mind, Younger mentioned. Kessler’s dying has been listed as a murder, a medical willpower that doesn’t point out against the law was dedicated, Younger mentioned.

The sheriff was requested if a megaphone was used to strike Kessler.

“I’ve heard that, and I believe the medical expert has mentioned the accidents on the face may have been brought on by a megaphone,” Fryhoff mentioned. “However I don’t have the data of what he had on him on the time.”

Extra patrols have been assigned to synagogues and mosques within the space, he mentioned.

Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, close to Thousand Oaks, additionally urged individuals to attend for investigators to find out what occurred, writing on X, previously Twitter to “not let this develop into a spark that begins an inferno.”

The Higher Los Angeles Space workplace of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued an announcement calling Kessler’s dying a “tragic and stunning loss.”

“Whereas we strongly assist the suitable of political debate, CAIR-LA and the Muslim group stand with the Jewish group in rejecting any and all violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or incitement of hatred,” the assertion mentioned.


Related Press author John Antczak in Los Angeles and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report. Watson reported from San Diego.