An elderly Jewish man attending a pro-Israel rally in California has died after a “physical altercation” with a pro-Palestinian protester, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department announced on Monday evening.
A verbal altercation broke out between 69-year-old Paul Kessler and an unnamed protester on West Lake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards in Ventura County on Sunday, per a department press release.
“The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident and has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime,” the department wrote.
Deputies wrote they responded to reports of a battery at the demonstration around 3:20 p.m.
“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 Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles wrote in a post on X Monday evening that the pro-Palestinian protester threw a megaphone at Kessler.
Kessler’s autopsy at the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death to be homicide, per the release.
Video posted online shows the man on the ground bleeding and holding his head. A protester holding a “Free Palestine” sign and wearing a Palestinian flag embroidered on her jacket could be seen leaning over the man.
The department is requesting that anyone who witnessed or captured footage of the incident call Detective Stump at (805) 384-4745.
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 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.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.