OAN’s Taylor Tinsley
1:40 PM – Tuesday, November 7, 2023
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office updated the public on their investigation into the death of a 69-year-old Jewish man who was killed following a confrontation with pro-Palestine protesters.
Deputies provided an update to their investigation during a press conference on Tuesday.
Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said that deputies received calls about a possible assault in Thousand Oaks, California, on Sunday afternoon in relation to a pro-Palestine protest and a counter protest in support of Israel.
Once deputies arrived on scene, they spotted 69-year-old Paul Kessler on the ground bleeding from his head and mouth.
Sheriff Fryhoff assured that Kessler was conscious and responsive on the scene and while being transported to the hospital, however, he was pronounced dead early on Monday morning.
Dr. Christopher Young, the chief medical examiner for Ventura county, said that Kessler’s injuries were consistent with those sustained from a fall. He also had internal injuries consistent with a fall including skull fractures, bruising to the brain and swelling of the brain.
“The cause of death has been certified as blunt force head trauma. The manner of death is homicide,” Dr. Young said.
Investigators said that about 75 to 100 people were protesting on both sides. However, detectives have received conflicting statements regarding the altercation and who the true aggressor was.
“During the investigation at the scene deputies determined that in the altercation with Mr. Kessler, he fell backward and struck his head on the ground. What exactly transpired prior to Mr. Kessler falling backward isn’t crystal clear right now,” said Sheriff Fryhoff.
The sheriff said the 50-year-old suspect, whose name has not been publicly released, called 9-1-1 and remained at the scene to be interviewed by deputies.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for the suspects residence and he was detained during a traffic stop, but later released.
The medical examiner also confirmed Kessler had non-lethal injuries that could be consistent with a “blow to the face.”
As investigators now determine whether someone or something caused Kessler to fall, some witnesses say that the suspect struck him with a bullhorn.
A witness at the scene, Jonathan Oswaks, told KTTV what he saw.
“There he is with a bullhorn, he’s echoing what’s being said out of the public address system, and when I saw the fracas start I saw the bullhorn come across,” Oswaks said. “It was very easy to see from where I was.”
Kessler’s death will be investigated as a homicide, however, authorities have not ruled out the incident as being a hate crime.
Sheriff Fryhoff adamantly assured the Muslim and Jewish communities that the sheriff’s office is committed to protecting “all members of the community.”
Officers have also increased patrols around mosques and Muslim community centers, as well as Jewish houses of worship.
The Sheriff’s office is asking for witnesses or anyone with any knowledge of the death to contact them.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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