Suspect Arrested in Death of Pro-Israeli Protester, Paul Kessler, 69 in Ventura County

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

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Thursday hailed the arrest of a man in connection with the death of a pro-Israeli protester who was allegedly struck in the head with a megaphone during dueling rallies in Thousand Oaks over the Israel-Hamas war.

Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, was arrested in Moorpark Thursday morning on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. Alnaji, a Moorpark College computer science professor, was being booked on $1 million bail, sheriff’s officials said.

He is suspected in the death of Paul Kessler, 69, who allegedly clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters during dueling rallies on Nov. 5 at Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards and may have been struck in the head with a megaphone, causing him to fall and strike his head on the ground. He died the next day.

Ventura County Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young told reporters earlier that Kessler had injuries to his head and facial area — including non- lethal bruising on the left side of his face that would be consistent with being struck. He said the fatal injuries appeared to have been suffered to the back of his head when he struck the ground.

Kessler’s death was ruled to be a homicide.

Alnaji was at the scene when deputies arrived, and was among those who called 911 after Kessler fell to the ground. Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff told reporters at the time that Alnaji was questioned but not immediately arrested pending further investigation.

The sheriff said witnesses at the scene gave conflicting statements about who the aggressor was in the confrontation. One witness told reporters he saw the suspect strike Kessler in the head with a microphone, causing him to fall to the ground.

Following news of the arrest, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles issued a statement thanking sheriff’s investigators for their “swift work.

“This arrest shows that violence towards our Jewish community will not be tolerated,” according to the federation. “We will continue to monitor the case to help ensure justice is served. Our heartfelt condolences continue to be with the family of Paul Kessler and may his memory forever be a blessing.”

Various local officials decried the violence that erupted during the rallies.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement Tuesday saying that “Los Angeles refuses to harbor this hatred.”

“We mourn the death of the Jewish man who died after being injured during a protest in Thousand Oaks,” Bass said. “As details emerge and are confirmed, we stand resolute in condemnation of violence and antisemitism. This death is a blow to our region at a time when tensions continue to rise worldwide. We must redouble our efforts to ensure violence and hate are met with accountability and consequences.”

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky issued a statement saying, “We cannot turn away from this. For the fourth time this year, Los Angeles has suffered yet another major antisemitic crime. 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.”

Although Alnaji was arrested, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department continued encouraging anyone with additional information to contact Detective Stump at 805-384-4745.

Anyone who was driving a vehicle equipped with video recording equipment in the area of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard between 3 and 4 p.m. Nov. 5 was also encouraged to call the sheriff’s department.

–City News Service