An elderly Jewish man died from his injuries suffered during an altercation at protests over the Israel-Palestine conflict – and authorities are not ruling out a hate crime.
Paul Kessler, 69, died on Monday after being hurt on Sunday, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
He was at a simulation pro-Israel/pro-Palestine rally along Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard around 3:15pm. There, deputies responded to a report of a battery. Witnesses said Kessler was in a fight and fell backward and hit his head on the ground.
Some suggested he was hit by a megaphone during a clash with a pro-Palestine gatherer.
Video shared on social media showed a man lying on the ground, being assisted by two people – one of them wearing a Palestinian flag and with ‘Free Palestine‘ written on her back. Another man stood over them and filmed on his cell phone.
Police continue to investigate and have not released any suspect information.
The 65-year-old man is seen lying on the ground on Sunday in Westlake Village, California. It appears a woman with Palestinian flag on her clothing is offering help
Sunday’s incident occurred at the corner of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Westlake Road (pictured)
After Kessler fell to the ground, he was taken to the hospital and died a day later.
An autopsy determined Kessler died from a blunt force head injury and the manner of death was ruled a ‘homicide.’
Police said the incident appeared to be isolated and not part of a larger effort.
Rabbi Michael Barclay, the rabbi in Westlake, urged calm and said he was trying to find more information.
‘Please do NOT post misinformation about the horrible death of an elderly Jew yesterday here in Westlake, where I am the local Rabbi,’ he wrote on X.
‘I have had long conversations with the Chief of Police and they sure investigating the different accounts of what happened and reviewing video.’
He added: ‘It is not clear yet exactly what happened other than an elderly Jew was counter protesting at a Gazan demonstration, hit the ground, and died.
‘We DO NOT KNOW at this time if he fell, was pushed, or was attacked.
‘Please do not spread rumors. We will know soon what happened.’
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles claimed the victim was ‘struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor.’ They were unable to provide further details.
The Federation said in a statement: ‘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.
‘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.’