Ventura County Police on Thursday arrested a pro-Palestinian college professor in connection to the death of a 69-year-old Jewish man during dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies on Nov. 5.
Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, of Moorpark, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery causing serious bodily injury, according to a news release from the Ventura County DA’s Office. He is reportedly being incarcerated at the Ventura County Jail on $1,000,000 bail.
The charges include “special allegations that Alnaji personally inflicted great bodily injury,” the press release said.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined on Nov. 6 that the cause of Paul Kessler’s death was blunt force head injury and the manner of his death was homicide.
In a statement after the incident, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles said Kessler was “struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor,” though investigators said there were conflicting reports as to what happened.
Investigators with the department said Kessler fell to the ground, resulting in brain hemorrhaging that killed Kessler hours later in the hospital.
Alnaji was born in Kuwait and his citizenship status is not clear, Fox News reports.
Although police previously obtained a warrant to search Alnaji’s vehicle and home in Moorpark on Nov. 6, detaining the then-suspect for about two hours, they had insufficient evidence to carry out an arrest.
It is unclear what new evidence led to Alnaji’s arrest. In the weeks preceding his arrest, some witnesses have told Fox News Digital that the pro-Palestinian protester struck Kessler with his megaphone. An autopsy carried out by Ventura County Medical Examiner Christopher Young showed minor abrasions to the left side of Kessler’s mouth in addition to the brain swelling and bruising that killed him.
Video footage from the scene showed police interviewing Alnaji as he sat next to the megaphone that was allegedly used to bludgeon Kessler.
Witnesses at the scene told Fox News that Alnaji “tried to bait” Kessler before the incident and “was using a megaphone to shout directly into the faces of pro-Israel protesters.”
“I don’t know how many times I told him to take that out of my ear,” Jonathan Oswaks, Kessler’s friend and fellow protester, said of Alnaji’s behavior. “And I wasn’t polite about it… He tried to bait me and I didn’t take the bait. [Then] he walked across the street and tried to bait Paul.”
Another witness described Alnaji’s behavior at the rally as “very aggressive.”
“[Alnaji wanted] to maybe not kill or hurt [Kessler], but to get in his face and get into an altercation,” the man, who asked not to be named, told Fox.
During a press conference on Nov. 7, Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff said that the then-unnamed suspect was being cooperative.
Alnaji, a full-time professor teaching computer science at Ventura County Community College in Moorpark, California, has allegedly posted pro-Hamas material on his now-deleted Instagram account.
Alnaji has taught college students since 2003 and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and a doctorate in business administration, per his since-removed faculty page and linked YouTube introduction that has since been removed.
Ventura County Community College District released a statement Thursday announcing that Alnaji has been placed on administrative leave.
His first appearance at Ventura County Superior Court is scheduled for Nov. 20.
District Attorney Erik Nasarenko and Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff held a livestreamed joint news conference with updates on the case at the Ventura County Sheriff’s Station in Thousand Oaks at 10:30 a.m. (PST).
Nasarenko said that prosecutors interviewed over 60 witnesses, and went through 600 pieces of evidence, including many hours of video.
He said investigators have not found elements in the case that rise to the level of a hate crime, but stressed that it hasn’t been ruled out.