CV NEWS FEED // Police in California searched the home of a pro-Palestinian man suspected of murdering an elderly Jewish man who was protesting Sunday in support of Israel.
The suspect, 50, reportedly attacked Paul Kessler, 69, causing the victim to fall to the ground where he suffered severe head injuries. Kessler died in a hospital early the next day.
The suspect’s name has not yet been released to the public as of Wednesday evening.
The violent altercation occurred outside of a Shell gas station in Thousand Oaks, CA, a northwestern suburb of Los Angeles. According to the Los Angeles Times, Kessler was part of a group of pro-Israel counter-protestors “demonstrating opposite a Free Palestine rally Sunday.”
“During the investigation at the scene, deputies determined that [during] the altercation with Mr. Kessler, he fell backward and struck his head on the ground,” said Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff. “What exactly transpired prior to Mr. Kessler falling backward isn’t crystal clear right now.”
The county has ruled Kessler’s death a homicide.
Jonathan Oswaks, 69, another pro-Israel counter-protester, said he witnessed the suspected attack. According to The New York Post, Oswaks claimed Kessler “was ‘stalked’ by his alleged attacker, who then struck him with a megaphone moments before his fatal fall.”
“[The man] crossed the street because, as I said, he stalked us,” the purported witness stated. “He came over here with the megaphone in his hand to do the same thing.”
Oswaks said the man forcefully put the megaphone against his ear. After Oswaks told him to remove the object, the man allegedly zeroed in on Kessler who was at the time said to be holding an Israeli flag.
“Then all of a sudden, I see a punch,” continued Oswaks. “The reason I know I could see the punch was because it was the white megaphone flying through the air.”
Rabbi Mark Blazer also claimed he witnessed the altercation that preceded Kessler’s death.
“The man hit Paul in the face with a megaphone,” said the rabbi. “That 100% happened. He hit him right in the mouth and he went down.”
Blazer added that the suspect and another pro-Palestinian activist crossed the street and “got in the faces” of Kessler and the other counter-protestors:
Paul was still conscious when he went down. At first he thought he lost some of his teeth because he was hit so hard in the mouth, but once he went down, he hit his head on the pavement.
The fall caused [Paul] to die.
The Daily Wire reported that the Major Crimes Bureau (MCB) of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office “subsequently launched a criminal homicide investigation into the incident and investigators have not ruled out that a hate crime was committed.”
“Detectives obtained a search warrant for the suspect and the suspect’s residence,” Fryhoff stated:
At 4:58 p.m. detectives conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle driven by the suspect in the city of Simi Valley. The suspect was detained
until the completion of the search warrant and he was released at 6:15 p.m. During the detention of the suspect, detectives executed a search warrant at the suspect’s residence in the city of Moorpark.
Ventura County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Christopher Young, said the victim suffered
intracranial injuries, which included swelling of the brain and hemorrhage surrounding the brain. Additional injuries included injury to the back of the head, these injuries are consistent with and typical of injuries sustained from a fall. Internal injuries also are consistent with a fall which included skull fractures, swelling of the brain, and bruising to the brain.
Young said Kessler’s “cause of death has been certified as blunt force head trauma” and “the manner of death is homicide.”
He explained that when “a manner of death of homicide is made, it’s simply stating that the death occurred at the hands of another person or the actions of another person contributed to the death of the person.”
Kessler, a retired pilot, was married and a Thousand Oaks resident. A family friend described the deceased senior citizen as “a proud Jew and proud Israel supporter.”
Rabbi Michael Barclay harshly criticized the anti-Israel group which Kessler was protesting prior to being mortally wounded.
“They have people out there being real jerks, interrupting people, making real threats and saying profanity,” the rabbi said.
“These people who are doing demonstrations have no idea what they’re talking about, and are just being used,” Barclay added. “These people are unaware of what they’re even chanting for.”
The New York Post added:
Kessler’s death comes amid a troubling spike in antisemitic violence in the four weeks since Hamas invaded southern Israel, sparking an all-out war in the tense region.
Over the weekend, a knife-wielding woman was arrested in New York after she was allegedly caught tearing down fliers of kidnapped Israelis and even pepper spraying a Jewish safety volunteer.