Authorities do not yet have enough evidence to bring charges in the death of an elderly Jewish man who died from a head injury after an altercation with a pro-Palestinian protester in Thousand Oaks, authorities said on Thursday.
The incident, which has gained national attention amid Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas, occurred on Nov. 5 when demonstrators held dueling rallies at the intersection of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
Paul Kessler, 69, suffered a severe head injury when, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, a pro-Palestinian demonstrator struck him with a megaphone. Kessler fell and hit his head on the pavement, the Ventura County Medical Examiner said. He died the next day at a hospital.
Among the many complexities in the case, investigators are dealing with conflicting witness accounts of what occurred. There are videos and photographs of Kessler and his alleged assailant before and after the altercation, but thus far no video of the moment of impact has surfaced.
“Our investigators are working around the clock to track down leads, scrutinize electronic data, and corroborate witness statements,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Thursday. “Currently, we do not have any footage of the actual incident taking place, which would be extremely helpful in this case and would undoubtedly show or could even refute criminal culpability.”
The Medical Examiner ruled the manner of death to be “homicide” which, officials admit, caused widespread confusion as to why there hadn’t been an arrest.
“A homicide determination from the medical examiner does not translate to a prosecutable murder or manslaughter (gross, voluntary, or involuntary) case, rather it establishes that Mr. Kessler’s death was not from natural causes, suicide, or unknown,” officials said.
Detectives continue to solicit help from the public and are asking for any relevant videos or photos, including from cars that have video recording systems, such as Teslas.
Those with information are urged to contact Ventura County Sheriff’s Detective Stump at 805-384-4745. People can also submit footage and pictures through this link.
Anonymous tips can be provided to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Officials said they will be increasing patrols and presence at places of worship in response to the “rising global tensions and threats of attacks on religious sites.”