The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said on Monday night that an elderly Jewish man who was attending a pro-Israel demonstration in California had died following a “physical altercation” with a protester who supported Palestine.
According to a department news statement, 69-year-old Paul Kessler and an unidentified protester got into a verbal argument on Sunday afternoon, and deputies responded to complaints of battery at a rally near West Lake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards.
“Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with [pro-Palestinian] counter-protesters,” the release continued. “During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground.”
The department stated that the “possibility of a hate crime” has not been ruled out and that it is still looking into the incident.
According to the announcement, Kessler’s autopsy at the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that homicide was the manner of death and blunt force head injuries were the cause of death.
The police are asking anyone who saw or recorded the event to give Detective Stump a call at (805) 384-4745.
Kessler can be seen on an internet video cradling his head and bleeding on the ground. Leaning over him was a demonstrator with a Palestinian flag sewn on her clothing and a “Free Palestine” banner in her hand.
Though he was not present for the altercation, a local resident who attended the rally met Kessler shortly before he passed away. Recalling that he had left to retrieve something from his car, the unnamed man told Fox News Digital that he returned to find Kessler “lying on the ground with blood everywhere.”
The man revealed that several witnesses, including the suspected offender, tried to call 911 but were unsuccessful.
He claimed that Kessler “was out,” with “moments where he lifted his head, touched the back of his head [and] lifted his legs up.”
“He took a very hard jar to the back of his head. His brain must’ve [been] swollen,” the man told Fox News Digital.
The pro-Palestinian demonstrator hurled a loudhailer at Kessler, according to a post made on X by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Monday night.
The unidentified individual claimed that some of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators were “very aggressive,” yelling at the police, and “trying to incite a reaction or response.”
A video shared with Fox News Digital also had shouts of “Allahu Akbar” coming from the pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles wrote that “violence against [the Jewish] people has no place in civilized society,” and that they will “not tolerate violence against [the Jewish] community… [and] will do everything in [their] power to prevent it.”
“Our hearts are with the family of the victim,” the group wrote in a Monday night post. “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.”
House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N-Y, shared the post, writing that “the explosion of antisemitism [had turned] deadly.”
“A 65-year-old(sic) Jewish man in LA was killed by a violent anti-Israel protestor(sic),” Nadler, who is Jewish, wrote. “I strongly encourage people of goodwill, people seeking peace to separate yourselves from those glorifying & committing violence. Help calm the tide of hate.”
He continued: “Violent political rhetoric has consequences. After a short while it incites and dehumanizes. And like tonight, tragically, people can be hurt or killed. Our country is at a crossroads and each of us bears responsibility to help bring calm.”