LOS ANGELES — Authorities in Ventura County, California, are investigating the death of a Jewish man who was injured during a confrontation at dueling rallies over Israel and Gaza died Monday, the sheriff’s department said.
Witnesses said Paul Kessler, 69, “was in a physical altercation with counter-protestor(s),” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
“During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground,” it said.
The incident happened around 3:20 p.m. Sunday in Thousand Oaks, a community in the Los Angeles area just over the Ventura County line, the sheriff’s department said.
Kessler was taken to a hospital and died Monday, it said.
“The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death homicide,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement.
Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian rallies were occurring at the same time at Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards, the sheriff’s department said.
Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha, near where the incident took place, called for patience.
“Please do not make assumptions or accusations until the police can do their job and/or we get real video,” Barclay wrote on X.
Barclay identified Kessler as Jewish. Kessler’s family declined comment Monday night and was asking for privacy.
The sheriff’s department said an investigation is active. It asked anyone who was at the demonstration or has information to contact it.
“The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident and has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime,” it said in a statement.
The sheriff’s department did not detail more about how Kessler’s injury occurred.
Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday morning.
No arrests have been made, the sheriff’s department said Monday night.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for the Los Angeles area, said Monday, “We are deeply saddened by this tragic and shocking loss” and urged everyone to wait for the sheriff’s office to complete its investigation.
The death occurred as tensions are high in parts of the United States and elsewhere over the war in Israel against terror group Hamas, which carried out unprecedented attacks against civilians in the country on Oct. 7.