The incident has left the victim’s wife reeling and in ‘a state of total shock.’
Paul Kessler was at the scene of two rival rallies held along Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard on Sunday – one was in support of Israel and the other backing the Palestinian cause.
There, Kessler got into a skirmish with another person – with some witnesses saying Kessler was hit with a megaphone – and he fell, hitting his head on the ground. Kessler was taken to the hospital, where he died the next day.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the incident, but has not made any arrest.
Video shared on social media showed Kessler on the ground, holding his head and in pain after falling as people tried to provide care, including one person who was wearing a Palestinian flag.
Paul Kessler, 69, is seen on Sunday after an incident at dueling pro Israel-pro Palestine rallies in Westlake Village. A Palestinian supporter appears to be helping Kessler after he clashed with other protestors
Kessler’s death has been ruled a homicide and police continue to investigate. Authorities say they have not ruled out his death being a hate crime
Local rabbi Moshe Bryski told the New York post that Kessler’s death was ‘just a tragedy.’ The rabbi added that Kessler was at the event to serve as a counter-protestor to a Pro-Palestinian gathering.
Bryski said when he contacted Kessler’s wife on Monday morning, she was ‘in a state of total shock.’
The clash happened around 3:20pm on Sunday when police were called for a reported battery.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived and found Kessler with a head injury. He was taken the hospital, where he died on Monday.
An autopsy determined Kessler died from a blunt force head injury and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.
Witnesses told investigators that Kessler was involved in a scrum with other protestors. He fell back and hit his head on the ground. The Los Angeles Times reported that Kessler was hit in the head before falling back.
No arrests have been in connection to the protests and police have not said if there is a possible crime.
Authorities described the incident as isolated and not part of a larger effort.
Witnesses told investigators that Kessler was involved in a scrum with other protestors. He fell back and hit his head on the ground. The Los Angeles Times reported that Kessler was hit in the head before falling back
Kessler was a dueling protests in California on Sunday, with some backing Israel and others who were pro-Palestine
Rabbi Michael Barclay, the rabbi in Westlake, urged calm and said he was trying to find more information.
He said police had identified a suspected who was involved in an altercation with Kessler before he fell, but there were conflicting witness reports as to whether Kessler was pushed or tripped.
‘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.’
Sunday’s incident occurred at the corner of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Westlake Road (pictured)
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.’
Ventura County Supervisor Jeff Gorell, whose district covers the location where the incident took place, said he’d been briefed by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
‘I’m heartbroken to hear of the tragic death of an elderly man today after having been struck at a protest in my district,’ he tweeted.