Jewish man dies after altercation at Israel-Palestinian protests in California
A Jewish man who fell to the ground in an altercation during dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian street protests in California died on Monday, and his death was determined to be a homicide, law enforcement and a Jewish organization said.
Paul Kessler, 69, died of blunt force head trauma following the altercation on Sunday, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said.
As of Monday night, no suspect had been taken into custody in what the sheriff's office said "appears to be isolated and not part of a large effort," though it had not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.
The attack took place as emotions have run high in the United States over the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, with U.S. officials and civil rights groups warning of increased threats against Jews, Muslims and Arab Americans since fighting broke out on Oct. 7.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles identified the victim as a Jewish man and labeled the incident as the "fourth major antisemitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year."
Separate pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations occurred simultaneously on Sunday in the city of Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles (65 km) west of Los Angeles, the sheriff's office said.
Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protesters, the sheriff's office said, citing witness accounts. It did not specify which side instigated the altercation.
"During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground. Kessler was transported to an area hospital for advanced medical treatment. On November 6, 2023, Kessler succumbed to his injuries," the statement said.
Deputies asked the public for help in what it called "an active and ongoing investigation." The sheriff's office said it would hold a press conference on Tuesday about the incident.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, without citing a source, said in a statement that pro-Palestinian protesters struck the victim on the head with a megaphone, describing it as an antisemitic crime.
"Violence against our people has no place in civilized society. We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it," the federation said.