A pro-Palestinian protester allegedly killed an elderly Jewish man attending a pro-Israel rally in California Sunday afternoon by hitting him in the head with a megaphone.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined the cause of 69-year-old Paul Kessler’s death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death to be homicide.
Deputies responded to reports of a battery at a demonstration in Westlake Village after a verbal altercation broke out between Kessler and an unnamed protester on Sunday afternoon, according to a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department press release. There were an estimated 75 to 100 people attending the dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
“Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with [pro-Palestinian] counter-protesters,” the release said Monday evening. “During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground.”
A witness told ABC News7 that the pro-Palestinian protester and the pro-Israel protester were having a heated argument when the suspect “brought his megaphone up and hit Paul, and Paul went down.”
The police have reportedly executed search warrants on the suspect’s vehicle and home.
A witness said: “They were both on an even ground, and they were yelling at each other, and then the man brought his megaphone up and hit Paul, and Paul went down.”pic.twitter.com/v7U4d5GGMd
— Marina Medvin 🇺🇸 (@MarinaMedvin) November 7, 2023
A video from the scene shows the pro-Palestinian counter-protesters resuming their chants as the gravely injured Kessler was taken away in an ambulance.
“As a man is being taken away on an ambulance for being knocked unconscious… this is the kind of respect these Palestinian protesters are giving,” a pro-Israel protester can be heard saying in the video shared with Independent journalist Christina Buttons.
A woman on the pro-Palestinian side who is apparently a pediatrician initially appeared to show concern for Kessler as he on the ground bleeding, but she can be seen laughing later as the man was being lifted into the ambulance.
An anti-Israel protester appears to show concern for Paul Kessler by placing a sign she was carrying (which says she’s a pediatrician) under his bleeding head. However, minutes later, she can be seen and heard smiling and laughing in a video taken by a source at the scene. pic.twitter.com/y0fjYOsBMD
— Christina Buttons (@buttonslives) November 7, 2023
Police reportedly interviewed the suspect at the scene as he sat by the megaphone that was allegedly used to bludgeon Kessler.
A man from the pro-Israel side who didn’t want to be identified told Fox News that some of the pro-Palestinian protesters were “extremely aggressive” and were yelling at police and “trying to incite a reaction or response.”
During the demonstration, pro-Palestinian protesters also allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” according to Fox.
The pro-Palestinian side posted a flier advertising the Nov. 5 “Freedom For Palestine Protest” on social media. The flier warned that “lots of crusty old racist white men” would be there “yelling about wanting Arabs to die and justice for Israel.”
“If you engage, be sure to come out with facts, do not scream at them as they will be recording like they always do,” the flier said,.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (JFGLA) said in a statement Monday evening that the pro-Palestinian protester “struck” Kessler in the head with the megaphone.
The group stated that the incident was the “fourth major antisemitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year alone.”
“Violence against our people has no place in civilized society,” JFGLA said in the statement posted on X. “We demand safety,” the group continued. “We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it.”
— Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (@JFedLA) November 7, 2023
Israeli politician Benny Gantz said Kessler’s “murder” was “a warning light that must reverberate throughout the world.”
“Israel stands today at the forefront of the global fight against the murderous antisemitic ideology behind the Hamas terror attacks of 7.10,” Gantz wrote on X.
“I call on world leaders and the international community to be unequivocal and proactive in their condemnation of terror and antisemitism.”
The murder of Jewish-American Paul Kessler should serve as a stark warning sign to the whole world.
Israel stands today at the forefront of the global fight against the murderous antisemitic ideology behind the Hamas terror attacks of 7.10.
I call on world leaders and the…
— בני גנץ – Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) November 7, 2023
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference Tuesday morning to give an update to its investigation into the incident.
Sheriff Jim Flyhoff said witnesses at the scene offered conflicting testimonies as to who the aggressor was. He did not mention anything about the victim being hit by a megaphone.
“What exactly transpired prior to Mr. Kessler falling backward isn’t crystal clear right now,” the sheriff said.
The suspect remained on the scene and has been “cooperative,” the sheriff said. He was detained while police executed a search warrant on his property but he has not yet been arrested.
Flyhoff said he couldn’t comment on the results of the search warrant as the investigation is ongoing, but the “possibility of a hate crime” has not been ruled out. He added that the incident is being investigative as a homicide.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking for more witnesses to come forward to assist its investigation.