Ventura County Sheriff’s investigators will hold a news conference on Tuesday to give more details into the shocking death of a Jewish man participating in a pro-Israel rally in California. Witnesses told authorities that the victim was hit by a pro-Hamas protester Sunday afternoon, fell over, and hit his head. He died Monday at a Ventura hospital.
On Sunday afternoon, both pro-Hamas and pro-Israel demonstrators held competing protests at the intersection of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Drive in Ventura County. Witnesses said the pro-Hamas protester struck 69-year-old Paul Kessler, who lost his balance and fell backwards. Ventura County officials confirmed after an autopsy that Kessler died from blunt force trauma to the head. The death has been ruled a homicide. The person who hit Kessler has not been arrested as of the publication of this story.
Speculation and outrage were rampant on Twitter/X by Monday as news of the man’s death seeped into the news cycle. Video of the aftermath showed a man believed to be Kessler lying down on the sidewalk. A deputy stood near him. The image went supernova on social media but there was surprisingly little information to be found on the facts provided about what happened.
“AT PROTEST AGAINST JEWISH/ISRAEL”
Cheryl’s husband passed yesterday due to brain bleed, it’s all on his cell which detectives took. Arab Gaza rapist supporter hit him in head with megaphone, Paul fell to the ground. 💔
WestLake Village yesterday Sunday Nov 5 2023
We can also… pic.twitter.com/NrFfZNHrLm
— AMALYA 🙂 (@growthfactororg) November 6, 2023
Local Westlake Rabbi Michael Barclay warned people online to be cautious in sharing outrage tweets, rank speculation, and unconfirmed reports, which were everywhere on Monday. He told his parishioners that he’d had “long conversations with the Chief of Police [and] they [are] investigating the different [accounts of what happened] and reviewing video.” He urged people not to post “misinformation about the horrible death of an elderly Jew yesterday here in Westlake, where I am the local Rabbi.”
It is not clear yet exactly what happened other than an elderly Jew was counter protesting at a Gazan demonstration, hit the ground, and died. We DO NOT KNOW at this time if he fell, was pushed, or was attacked. Please do not spread rumors. We will know soon what happened
— Rabbi Michael Barclay (@Rabbi_Barclay) November 7, 2023
Later on Monday, the Ventura Sheriff’s Office announced that Kessler’s cause of death was head trauma.
Upon arrival, responding deputies located Kessler, who was suffering from a head injury. Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protestor(s). During the altercation, Kessler fell backward 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.
An autopsy was performed on November 6th and the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death homicide.
This is an active and ongoing investigation, and the incident appears to be isolated and not part of a large effort.
Sheriff’s deputies also plan to answer the question of whether they’ll pursue hate crime charges in the case at the news conference on Tuesday.