Suspect in Death of Jewish Protester in Southern California to Stand Trial

Suspect in Death of Jewish Protester in Southern California to Stand Trial

Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff at a Nov. 7 news conference announcing the start of a homicide investigation into the death of Paul Kessler. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

5/15/2024

Updated: 5/16/2024

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A Ventura County judge has determined there is enough evidence to hold a trial for the man suspected of causing the death of another man who was pro-Israel during a pro-Palestinian protest in Thousand Oaks, California, last year.
Police arrested Loay Abdel Fattah Alnaji, 50, of Moorpark in December. He faces one felony count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Paul Kessler, 69, a Jewish man who was killed as a result of an altercation Nov. 5 during the protest.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Ryan Wright made the decision May 15 after a two-day preliminary hearing, according to District Attorney Erik Nasarenko.
Mr. Alnaji is accused of engaging in a physical confrontation with Mr. Kessler during the incident while both were protesting on the corner of Thousand Oaks and Westlake boulevards.
Witnesses say Mr. Kessler was struck in the face and fell on the pavement, hitting his head. He died the next day of severe head trauma, according to authorities.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s office determined he was a victim of homicide, meaning he died as a result of someone else’s actions, Chief Medical Examiner Christopher Young said in November.
Sheriff James Fryhoff said Mr. Alnaji was one of the people who called 911 to get help after Mr. Kessler fell. He was also cooperative with investigators by answering questions at the scene, the sheriff said.
During this week’s preliminary hearing, Senior Deputy District Attorney Courtney Lewis presented evidence, including DNA analysis of blood found on the rim of the megaphone that Mr. Alnaji allegedly used to strike Mr. Kessler.
“That blood evidence was located on the front end of the megaphone horn and is a match to Mr. Kessler,” the district attorney’s office said in a press release Wednesday.
Prosecutors also showed other evidence, which included video and audio clips from Mr. Kessler’s cell phone, showing the moments directly before he was allegedly struck by Mr. Alnaji.
Ventura County Medical Examiner Dr. Othon Mena also testified that Mr. Kessler died from blunt force trauma caused by the blow from the megaphone and the subsequent fall to the pavement.
Although prosecutors with the district attorney’s office continue to translate and review messages, social media posts, files, and other documents belonging to Mr. Alnaji, nothing so far supports evidence that Mr. Kessler’s was a result of a hate crime, Mr. Nasarenko’s office said.
“While antisemitic hate speech was heard at the [rally], there is no evidence those words were said by Alnaji,” according to the district attorney’s office.
Mr. Alnaji remains out of custody after posting a $50,000 bail. He faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted on all charges.
An arraignment is scheduled for June 10 at the Ventura County Superior Court.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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