Law enforcement officials in southern California said on Tuesday that they executed a search warrant at the home of a pro-Palestinian activist that they suspect was involved in the death of a pro-Israel protester at the start of the week.
The incident where 69-year-old Paul Kessler was killed happened at a Sunday event in Thousand Oaks where there were competing pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies.
Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said at a press conference that law enforcement identified a 50-year-old suspect who was one of the pro-Palestinian protesters.
“During the investigation at the scene, deputies determined that the altercation with Mr. Kessler, he fell backward and struck his head on the ground,” he said. “What exactly transpired prior to Mr. Kessler falling backward isn’t crystal clear right now.”
Kessler was transported to a local hospital and he remained conscious and responsive for a period of time until he succumbed to his injuries early Monday morning.
The Major Crimes Bureau (MCB) subsequently launched a criminal homicide investigation into the incident and investigators have not ruled out that a hate crime was committed.
“Yesterday afternoon, detectives obtained a search warrant for the suspect and the suspect’s residence,” said Fryhoff. “At 4:58 p.m. detectives conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle driven by the suspect in the city of Simi Valley. The suspect was detained … until the completion of the search warrant and he was released at 6:15 p.m. During the detention of the suspect, detectives executed a search warrant at the suspect’s residence in the city of Moorpark.”
Dr. Christopher Young, the chief medical examiner for Ventura County, said at the press conference that a CT scan at the hospital found that Kessler sustained “intracranial injuries, which included swelling of the brain and hemorrhage surrounding the brain.”
“The autopsy demonstrated non-lethal injuries to the left side of Mr. Kessler’s face,” he said. “Additional injuries included injury to the back of the head, these injuries are consistent with and typical of injuries sustained from a fall. Internal injuries also are consistent with a fall which included skull fractures, swelling of the brain, and bruising to the brain.”
Young said that the injuries to the front of Kessler’s face were “consistent with a blow to the face,” which is separate from the injuries to the back of his head caused by him falling and hitting his head on the ground.
“The cause of death has been certified as blunt force head trauma, the manner of death is homicide,” Young said. “When a manner of death of homicide is made, it’s simply stating that the death occurred at the hands of another person or the actions of another person contributed to the death of the person.”