Man involved in confrontation with Jewish protester who died called 911, cooperated with police

Nov 6, 2023, 8:39 PM | Updated: Nov 8, 2023, 4:30 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Southern California authorities investigating the death of a Jewish man following a confrontation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator over the Israel-Hamas war haven’t determined whether a crime occurred and on Tuesday asked for the public’s help to unravel what happened.

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said deputies determined that Paul Kessler, 69, who died early Monday at a hospital, had fallen backward and struck his head on the ground at a pro-Palestinian demonstration Sunday afternoon in Thousands Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles.

The pro-Palestinian demonstrator stayed at the scene and told deputies he had called 911, Fryhoff said.

Fryhoff said investigators were getting conflicting information from witnesses on both sides about what took place before the fall and had not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. No arrests have been made, and officials were asking for people to provide video footage if they have any.

“What exactly transpired prior to Mr. Kessler falling backward isn’t crystal clear right now,” Fryhoff said, adding that it’s also unclear how many people were involved.

He cautioned people to not jump to conclusions, and “refrain from spreading rumors or spreading misinformation on social media or other platforms, as that can not only hinder our investigation, but it can cause unnecessary panic in our community.”

Demonstrations have been widespread and tensions are escalating in the United States as the death toll rises in the Israel-Hamas war. Last month a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed 26 times by his landlord in what authorities have said was in response to escalating right-wing rhetoric on the conflict. In Ventura County alone there have been 21 demonstrations since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Fryhoff said.

Kessler was among a group of pro-Israel demonstrators who showed up at the event that was advertised as a peaceful gathering to support Palestinians, Fryhoff said. About 75 people in total were there and patrols in the area reported seeing no indication of violence 15 minutes before the altercation happened, Fryhoff said.

Deputies found Kessler bleeding from the head and mouth and he was conscious as he was transported to the hospital, Fryhoff said. A pro-Palestinian demonstrator stayed to tell deputies he had been involved in the confrontation with Kessler and had called 911 after he fell, Fryhoff said.

The pro-Palestinian protester is 50 years old and resides in the nearby city of Moorpark, Fryhoff said, adding that officials were not releasing his name at this time. He was detained briefly for questioning and authorities have searched his home.

Ventura County Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young said at the news conference Tuesday that an autopsy found Kessler died from a blunt force head trauma, and that the injuries were consistent with a fall. Kessler also had injuries that “could be consistent” with a blow to the face, but it’s unclear what caused his fall, Young said.

Kessler was injured on the left side of his face and back of his head. He had skull fractures and swelling and bruising of the brain, Young said. Kessler’s death has been listed as a homicide, a medical determination that does not indicate a crime was committed, Young said.

The sheriff was asked if a megaphone was used to strike Kessler.

“I’ve heard that, and I think the medical examiner has said the injuries on the face could have been caused by a megaphone,” Fryhoff said. “But I don’t have the information of what he had on him at the time.”

Additional patrols have been assigned to synagogues and mosques in the area, he said.

Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, near Thousand Oaks, also urged people to wait for investigators to determine what happened, writing on X, formerly Twitter to “not let this become a spark that starts an inferno.”

The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement calling Kessler’s death a “tragic and shocking loss.”

“While we strongly support the right of political debate, CAIR-LA and the Muslim community stand with the Jewish community in rejecting any and all violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or incitement of hatred,” the statement said.


Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report. Watson reported from San Diego.

United States News

Associated Press

Trump and DeSantis will hold dueling campaign events in Iowa with the caucuses just six weeks away

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ron DeSantis plans on Saturday to complete his campaign promise to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties, a timeworn tactic for presidential candidates hoping to make their mark in the leadoff state over months mingling with voters at the state’s diners, cookouts and Pizza Ranches. But the Florida governor’s moment, […]

50 minutes ago

FILE - Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is shown before administering the oath of office t...

Associated Press

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor paved a path for women on the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — One fall day in 2010, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor slipped into the courtroom where she worked for nearly 25 years to take in an “amazing” sight. The first — and for 12 years, the only — woman on the high court saw three women in black robes among the […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

US Navy plans to raise jet plane off Hawaii coral reef using inflatable cylinders

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Navy plans to use inflatable cylinders to lift and roll a jet plane off a coral reef in Hawaii before removal from the ocean waters where the aircraft crashed on Nov. 20. Rear Adm. Kevin Lenox, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 3 who is leading the salvage effort, said […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Las Vegas police search for suspect after 5 homeless people are shot, killing 2

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Five homeless people were shot in Las Vegas on Friday, two of them fatally, and police were searching for a lone suspect, authorities said. The shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. near a freeway overpass in the northeastern part of the city, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Mark Lourenco. […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge rejects calls to halt winter construction work on Willow oil project in Alaska during appeal

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal judge in Alaska on Friday rejected requests from environmental groups to halt winter construction work for the massive Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope while the groups’ legal fight over the drilling project wages on. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason just last month upheld the Biden administration’s […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Frank Rocco Giustino, who skippe...

Associated Press

Lawsuits against Trump over Jan. 6 riot can move forward, appeals court rules

Lawsuits against Donald Trump over the U.S. Capitol riot can move forward, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

Man involved in confrontation with Jewish protester who died called 911, cooperated with police