A 69-year-old man died Monday after suffering a head injury at a Thousand Oaks protest centered on the Israel-Hamas war, according to law enforcement.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office said an autopsy determined Paul Kessler died as a result of a blunt force head injury and called the manner of death a homicide. Kessler was identified as Jewish by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said the incident was reported just after 3:20 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, near the L.A. County border. Opposing protesters — pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian — had taken a stand on either side of the intersection when an altercation occurred, authorities said.
Kessler, of Thousand Oaks, was struck in the head, knocked backward and hit his head on the ground, deputies said.
Paramedics responded to a “fight in progress” and found the victim suffering a head injury, according to Andy VanSciver, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department. Kessler was transported to a local hospital, where he died Monday.
No arrests had been made as of Monday night, and the investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with details for authorities can contact Det. Corey Stump at (805) 384-4745.
Officials did not release further details about how Kessler was struck or whether there were any suspects in the case. The agency said it had not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.
A video of the aftermath shared on social media showed Kessler lying on his back on the corner of the intersection with blood dripping from his head.
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,” Gorell wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Kessler’s death has sparked mourning and alarm in Southern California’s Jewish community, with some leaders and public officials expressing outrage.
The Anti-Defamation League called on law enforcement “to launch a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible.”
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said a news conference on the incident was scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
This is a developing story.