‘Conflicting’ accounts complicate investigation into death of Jewish man after dueling rallies in California
One of the suspects in the confrontation that led to the killing of a Jewish man, during which he was injured Mutual Israeli and Palestinian confrontations A California man was “cooperative” and briefly detained and called 911 to request medical assistance for the victim, officials said Tuesday.
But the authorities investigating the case refused to identify the suspect or classify the incident as a hate crime, saying they were still trying to determine the reasons that led to the conflict.
Paul Kessler, 69, died Monday, a day after he participated in a pro-Israel rally in Thousand Oaks, California, where he got into a “physical altercation” with “counter-protesters,” witnesses said. Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said in a statement that Kessler was hit in the head by a megaphone carried by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator. statement.
Kessler allegedly fell backwards and hit his head on the ground during the altercation.
When police and emergency services arrived at the scene, they found Kessler on the ground, Sheriff Jim Freehoff told reporters. The sheriff added that he was conscious and was able to speak with deputies.
The 50-year-old suspect “willingly remained” at the scene and was interviewed by deputies, Freehof said.
Investigators obtained a search warrant for him and his Moorpark residence on Monday, according to the sheriff, who did not specify what investigators were looking for during the search. He was arrested and released more than an hour after a traffic stop in Simi Valley.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there had been no arrests in this case.
Freehof said it’s not “quite clear now” what led to Kessler’s downfall.
Al-Sharif said interviews with witnesses yielded “conflicting” accounts. He asked the public and witnesses to come forward with photos or videos and advice about what happened.
An autopsy conducted Monday determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head and the manner of homicide — which is defined as death at the hands of another person but does not indicate foul play.
“The manner of death in a homicide does not indicate that a crime was committed, and that is what the district attorney’s office determines,” said Dr. Christopher Young, Ventura County’s chief medical examiner.
An autopsy found Kessler suffered injuries consistent with a fall, Young said.
The Sheriff’s Office said Monday it was investigating the incident and “has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.”
The FBI is in contact with the Sheriff’s Office to determine the circumstances of Kessler’s death, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Pictures on social media showed Kessler before the altercation waving the Israeli flag at an intersection. Another photo showed him receiving treatment on the sidewalk at 3:20 p.m. (6:20 p.m. ET), with his head lying on a blood-stained homemade sign.
This incident comes at a time when tensions resulting from the war between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East have reverberated throughout the United States. It has been a month since a surprise terror attack by Hamas that Israel says killed 1,400 people, with 240 still hostage in the Gaza Strip. Health officials there say more than 1.5 million people have been displaced in Gaza More than 10,000 people were killed While Israel bombs the Palestinian Strip from the air and attacks it on the ground.
Freehof said on Tuesday that there will be increased patrols around mosques and Islamic community centers as well as Jewish community centers.
Citing the war, he said: “We want to assure the Muslim and Jewish communities that we stand by them during these difficult times.”
Kyle Jury, a former editor at a local newspaper, The Thousand Oaks Acorn, said Kessler wrote letters to the newspaper “all the time.”
“What I can say is that he was passionate about political issues (liberal issues) and wasn’t afraid to let people know how he felt,” he told NBC News on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he was there as a counter-protester even at his age. He attended many demonstrations related to progressive issues. He added: “He has written for us consistently for over 20 years on topics ranging from climate change to ‘fake news’ to the Covid vaccine, and he enjoyed “He was very intelligent and did not make any criticisms.”
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass addressed Kessler’s death in a statement on Tuesday, saying it was “a blow to our region at a time when tensions continue to rise around the world.”
She added: “We must redouble our efforts to ensure that violence and hate are met with accountability and consequences. Los Angeles refuses to harbor this hatred.”
While Kessler’s injury in the dueling protests sparked a frenzy on social media and drew swift condemnation from Israeli leaders who called his death an act of anti-Semitism, local officials urged caution and patience as the investigation progressed.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic and shocking loss,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Greater Los Angeles office said in a statement Monday. “We join local Jewish leaders in calling on all individuals to refrain from jumping to conclusions, stirring up such a tragedy for political gain, or spreading rumors that could unnecessarily escalate tensions that are already at an all-time high.”
“We urge everyone to wait for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to complete its investigation before drawing any conclusions. Our thoughts are with the family and the Jewish community during this difficult time,” the statement continued, adding that CAIR and the Muslim community stand with the Jewish community in rejecting violence, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. .
In a post on X, Rabbi Michael Barclay of Ner Simcha Synagogue, near the scene, called for patience.
“Please do not make assumptions or accusations until the police can do their job and/or we get actual video,” he wrote.