Man dies after hitting head during Israel and Palestinian rallies in California, officials say

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 that 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 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.

Both 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.

The sheriff’s department said an active investigation is ongoing. It asked anyone who was at the demonstration or had 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.

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday morning.

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