Paul Kessler died due to head injuries consistent with a fall, but it remains to be seen if charges will be filed against the person who allegedly struck him, according to Ventura County officials.
On Tuesday, the Ventura County Sheriff provided an update on the incident, which occurred Sunday afternoon as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered at the intersection of Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards.
Kessler, 69, was “struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor,” the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles said.
A video posted to social media showed him lying on the ground next to a Shell gas station with an obvious head injury. He died at a hospital the following day.
Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said investigators have “not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime,” and said Kessler’s death is being investigated as a homicide, which does not inherently mean a crime was committed.
“There was clearly an interaction between the two [men] but what that level of interaction is, is still unclear,” Fryhoff said.
He asked for anyone with additional video footage to come forward.
“We’re working tirelessly to gather all the facts and evidence related to this incident, and we will do everything in our power, using every resource we have at our disposal, to make sense of this incident,” Fryhoff said.
Kessler was conscious after the incident and during his transportation to the hospital. His alleged attacker, identified only as Moorpark man, was cooperative with investigators and was even among those who called 911, Fryhoff said.
Dr. Christopher Young, Ventura County Medical Examiner, said Kessler’s injuries were consistent with those suffered in a fall and explained his “homicide” ruling.
“It’s simply stating that … the actions of another person contributed to the death of the person,” he said.
No arrests have been made, Fryhoff said, and the suspect, who has not been publicly identified, interacted with Kessler, but “what that level of interaction is is still unclear.”
“If criminal wrongdoing is discovered,” Fryhoff said, “[we will] bring the person or persons responsible to justice.”