By KENNETH SCHRUPP | THE CENTER SQUARE
An autopsy performed by the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s office determined the death of a pro-Israeli Jewish man protesting near a pro-Palestine rally in Westlake Village, California to be a homicide. According to the examiner, the finding does not necessarily “indicate a crime has been committed,” because “that’s determined by the [District Attorney’s] office.”
A report from the Ventura County Sheriff says the death occurred at an intersection where both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine rallies were in progress.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles says the deceased man, identified as Paul Kessler, 69, was “struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor.”
The sheriff’s latest public report doesn’t say anything about a megaphone, but does say Kessler was “involved in a physical altercation with counter-protestors,” during which he “fell backwards and struck his head on the ground.”
The examiner’s report notes Kessler had a nonlethal injury to one side of his face, along with blunt force trauma to the back of his head consistent with a fall, which could suggest he may have been struck then fallen to the ground.
“The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident and has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime,” said the office in a public statement.
Two weeks ago, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish anti-hate group claimed there was a nearly 400% increase in reported anti-semitic incidents from October 7 to October 23 over the same period last year.
“It’s a lot of anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian protestors that are celebrating Hamas’ atrocities,” said Aaron Bandler, a staff writer for the Jewish Journal who covers antisemitism, to The Center Square. “The protesters are wearing masks so you can’t really see their faces.”
In California, pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protests have erupted around the state, accompanying a surge in reports of both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim incidents.