An elderly Jewish protester has been killed in California after a skirmish led to him falling on his head after reportedly being hit with a megaphone.
Paul Kessler, 69, was caught up in rival rallies in Thousand Oaks on Sunday – one in support of Israel and the other backing the Palestinian cause.
Kessler is understood to have been involved in a tussle with another person where he fell backward and hit his head on the ground.
Harrowing social media footage showed him lying on the ground with a pool of blood under him as medics rushed to help him.
He was taken to the hospital on Sunday but died of his injuries the following day. Cops launched an investigation as his autopsy ruled his death a homicide.
Kessler’s wife on Monday was said to be ‘in a state of total shock’ while local religious leaders called his death a ‘tragedy’.
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
A vigil was held on Monday evening for Kessler following his death after the incident on Sunday afternoon
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
Sunday’s incident occurred at the corner of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Westlake Road (pictured)
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.
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.