(LibertySociety.com) – A homicide investigation is underway in Ventura County, California, following the death of a Jewish protestor who was injured after falling during a fight with a pro-Palestinian protestor. Dueling protests took place on November 5 in the Thousand Oaks community of Los Angeles, and tensions were high amongst the crowd. Witnesses told officers that Paul Kessler, 69, “fell backwards and struck his head on the ground” during the fight. Before the fight occurred, Kessler was seen waving an Israeli flag at the intersection of a street in the community.
Videos and photographs posted to social media showed Kessler lying down with blood surrounding his head. A video following the altercation showed pro-Palestinian protestors continuing their chants after Kessler was severely injured. He was taken to a hospital for treatment but died the following day. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office released a statement following the incident, asking for anyone with information to come forward. The statement also said that authorities have “not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.”
A local Rabbi, Michael Barclay, asked for people to refrain from assuming the worst. He said that people should be patient and wait for the police investigation to conclude or for individuals to come forward with video of Kessler’s fall. The local Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) expressed its sadness regarding Kessler’s death but also advised against the politicization of the incident. CAIR reiterated calls from Jewish leaders in the area to wait for more information, or else increased tensions could result.
Others were quick to label Kessler’s death as a hate crime. Two Israeli opposition leaders blamed antisemitism for Kessler’s death, with one writing that he was only killed because he was Jewish. Kessler’s death was the result of blunt force trauma to the head that was caused by homicide, according to the sheriff’s office. So far, no one has been arrested, but officials provided an update regarding the investigation during a press briefing on November 7. The sheriff’s office interrogated and conducted a search of one suspect’s residence, but their identity has not been revealed.
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