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Death of Paul Kessler: Jewish protester arrested in California after confrontation over war between Israel and Hamas

David Swanson/AFP/Getty Images

Flowers, candles and flags decorate a makeshift memorial for Paul Kessler in Thousand Oaks, California on November 7.


A man has been charged in connection with the death of Paul Kessler, a Jewish protester who fell and hit his head during a clash at dueling rallies over the war between Israel and Hamas this month in Southern California, Ventura County officials said Thursday.

Loay Alnaji, 50, of Moorpark, was arrested Thursday morning in connection with Kessler’s death, the county sheriff’s office said. Alnaji was later charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery causing serious bodily injury – both misdemeanors – the county attorney’s office said.

A news conference with District Attorney Erik Nasarenko and Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff is scheduled for Friday morning. Alnaji is scheduled to appear in court Friday afternoon, according to inmate information posted on the sheriff’s office website.

Alnaji’s bond is set at $1 million, the sheriff’s office said. CNN is working to determine whether Alnaji has legal representation.

Kessler, 69, died from head injuries following an interaction with a pro-Palestinian protester during two simultaneous demonstrations by pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups on Nov. 5 in Thousand Oaks, according to the office of the sheriff.

Witnesses said Kessler, who supported Israel during the protests, was “involved in a physical altercation” with at least one counter-protester while pro-protester rallies were taking place, the county sheriff’s office said de Ventura in a previous press release.

It is unclear what interaction Kessler and Alnaji had before the incident.

“Although an arrest has been made, we continue to encourage community members who may have information regarding this criminal investigation and have not yet come forward,” the sheriff’s office said. said Thursday.

Anyone driving a vehicle equipped with video recording equipment in the area where the pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests were taking place is asked to contact detectives or submit evidence.

Alnaji has been placed on administrative leave from his job at a community college, the Ventura County Community College District said in an emailed statement Thursday. Alnaji works at Moorpark College, the Los Angeles Times reported, although his profile on the district’s website was not available Thursday. The University District communicated with sheriff’s officials during the investigation into Kessler’s death, the district said.

The duels were among the many protests that have erupted in cities across the United States, either in support of Israel or to protest its retaliation for the Hamas attacks of October 7, which killed more than 1,200 people.

More than 11,200 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its military offensive a month ago, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah said Tuesday. relying on sources located in the enclave controlled by Hamas. Israeli airstrikes have hit schools, refugee camps and ambulances.

Details surrounding the altercation remain unclear

The simultaneous protests where the incident took place were organized by two groups identified as “Freedom for Palestine” and “We Are Pro-Israel,” according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities estimated that between 75 and 100 people were present between the two groups.

What happened before Kessler’s head injury is unclear due to conflicting accounts from pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian witnesses, Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff said in a statement. anterior press.

Video filmed at the scene and shared online shows Kessler lying on his back on the sidewalk, with blood on his face and on the ground. He places his hands on his head like a woman with a Palestinian flag on her back and a man leans over him, trying to help him, the video shows. The footage does not show the altercation that led to Kessler’s injuries.

Obtained by CNN

This photo, taken on November 5, shows Paul Kessler holding an Israeli flag at the intersection where the altercation later took place.

A suspect was questioned at the scene, Fryhoff said in the release. He was cooperative and told authorities he was involved in the altercation with Kessler, Fryhoff said. The suspect also said he was among the people who called 911 so Kessler could receive medical attention.

Kessler was still conscious and responsive when Ventura County sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene, according to Fryhoff. Kessler received medical aid from the Ventura County Fire Department and was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, the sheriff said.

It was shortly before 3 a.m. on Nov. 6 that the hospital notified the sheriff’s office of Kessler’s death, Fryhoff said.

Later that day, detectives conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by the suspect and he was arrested while executing a search warrant at his home. It is unclear whether the suspect was questioned at the scene and arrested on November 6. was Alnaji.

An autopsy found Kessler suffered non-life-threatening injuries to the left side of his face and injuries to the back of his head, which were “consistent and typical of injuries sustained from a fall,” Dr. Christopher said Young, the hospital’s chief medical examiner. Ventura County, told reporters. He also suffered internal injuries consistent with a fall, such as skull fractures and swelling and bruising to his brain, Young said.

The cause of death was determined to be blunt force head trauma and the manner of death to be homicide, Young said. The latter, he emphasized, is a medical determination meaning that the death occurred at the hands of another person, and it does not mean that a crime was committed.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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