LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – A 69-year-old Jewish man died Monday after suffering a severe head injury during an altercation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator in California, authorities said.
Deputies with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office received multiple calls at around 3:20 p.m. about a “battery” at an intersection in Thousand Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles, during demonstrations involving pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups.
When deputies arrived, they found the victim, identified as Paul Kessler, with a head injury, the Sheriff’s Office said. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries Monday.
“Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protester(s),” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. “During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground.”
According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Kessler was “struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor.”
A video posted to social media shows him lying on the ground as two people, including a pro-Palestinian demonstrator, try to help.
“While we wait for more information from our law enforcement partners, we remind you that this is the fourth major antisemitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year alone,” the Federation said in a statement. “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 Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death was a blunt force head injury and ruled the manner of death to be homicide, the release stated.
Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, near Thousand Oaks, urged people to avoid jumping to conclusions about what happened.
“I just got off the phone with the Chief of Police,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “They have conflicting reports of what happened, and they did interview the suspect that is identified in social media at the event. They have no video.”
He said police are being cautious before making accusations. “We need to do the same; and not let this become a spark that starts an inferno,” he wrote.
The Sheriff’s Office did not say if anyone had been arrested in connection with the incident, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
“This is an active and ongoing investigation, and the incident appears to be isolated and not part of a large effort,” officials said.
Since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out last month protests have been held around the world over the deaths of thousands. Hamas militants have been condemned for invading Israel and killing and kidnaping civilians while Israel has been accused of indiscriminate bombing that has killed many civilians in Gaza.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.