A 69-year-old Jewish man died Monday after suffering a severe head injury during an altercation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator in Thousand Oaks, authorities said.
Deputies with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office received multiple calls at around 3:20 p.m. about a “battery” at the intersection of Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards where demonstrations were taking place involving pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups.
When deputies arrived they located the victim, identified as Paul Kessler, suffering from a head injury, the Sheriff’s Office said. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on Monday.
“Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protester(s),” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. “During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground.”
According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Kessler was “struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor.”
A video posted to social media shows him lying on the ground as two people, including a pro-Palestinian demonstrator, try to help.
“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,” the Federation said in a statement. “Violence against our people has no place in civilized society. We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it.”
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death was a blunt force head injury and ruled the manner of death to be homicide, the release stated.
The Sheriff’s Office did not say if anyone had been arrested in connection with the incident, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
“This is an active and ongoing investigation, and the incident appears to be isolated and not part of a large effort,” officials said.
Investigators are urging anyone who witnessed the incident or who was present at the demonstration to contact Detective Stump at 805-384-4745. Anonymous tips can be submitted through Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or by following this link.
Incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hate have surged in the U.S. and abroad since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.