Jewish Man, 69, Dies After Being Struck Amid Dueling Protests Over Gaza in Thousand Oaks

Paul Kessler
Protest victim Paul Kessler. Photo shared on X by Cristina Buttons @buttonslives

Los Angeles officials expressed outrage Monday over the death of a 69-year-old Jewish man who was struck in the head Sunday at dueling demonstrations concerning the war between Israel and Hamas.

Paul Kessler of Thousand Oaks died as a result of injuries sustained during an altercation at pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian rallies that were occurring simultaneously at the intersection of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, which was handling the investigation.

The location is in Thousand Oaks but borders Westlake Village, which straddles the border of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Authorities said they have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.

“We cannot turn away from this. For the fourth time this year, Los Angeles has suffered yet another major antisemitic crime,” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky said in a statement released Monday evening. “We cannot ignore the disgusting antisemitism, hate speech, and violence that has proliferated here at home. While we wait for more details, know this: violence against our community cannot be and will never be tolerated.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles issued the following statement:

“We are devastated to learn of the tragic death of an elderly Jewish man who was struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor in Westlake Village. Our hearts are with the family of the victim. 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.”

At about 3:20 p.m. Sunday, multiple citizens called the Ventura County Sheriff’s Communication Center to report that a battery had occurred at the rallies.

Responding deputies found Kessler, who was suffering from a head injury. Sheriff’s officials said witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protestor(s), and that during the altercation, Kessler fell backward and struck his head on the ground.

He was taken to a hospital for “advanced medical treatment” but succumbed to his injuries on Monday, authorities said.

An autopsy was performed by the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office and “determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death homicide,” according to the sheriff’s department.

Anyone who witnessed or has knowledge of the incident, or who was present at the demonstrations, was encouraged to contact Detective Stump at 805-384-4745. Anonymous tips can be sent to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).