Suspect Arrested in Death of Jewish Man at California Protest

Suspect Arrested in Death of Jewish Man at California Protest

A mugshot of Loay Alnaji, who was arrested in the death of 69-year-old Paul Kessler, a Jewish man. (Courtesy of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

11/16/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

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A Moorpark man was arrested and charged Nov. 16 for the death of 69-year-old Paul Kessler, a Jewish man who was killed as a result of an altercation Nov. 5 in Thousand Oaks, California, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office has announced.
Loay Alnaji, 50, a computer science teacher at Moorpark College, was arrested at his home Thursday morning and booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility. His bail will be set at $1 million, according to the sheriff’s office.
Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko charged Mr. Alnaji with one count of felony involuntary manslaughter and one count of felony battery causing serious bodily injury. He also added a special allegation of personally inflicted great bodily injury, which is an enhancement to the charges and would add to his penalty or prison time if convicted. Authorities have still not ruled out possible hate crime charges in the case.
“The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office would like to start by expressing our sympathy for Mr. Kessler, his family, friends, and loved ones,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “We also acknowledge the public’s concern, as we know this incident has not just affected our community, rather it is far-reaching and has gained worldwide attention, both in media outlets and particularly on social media platforms.”
Mr. Alnaji is expected to be arraigned Nov. 20 in Ventura County Superior Court.
The Jewish Federation of Greater L.A. said they were thankful for the sheriff’s response to the incident.
“We are grateful for the swift work of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in response to the tragic death of Mr. Paul Kessler,” spokesman Aram Goldberg told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “This arrest shows that violence towards our Jewish community will not be tolerated. 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.”
Authorities still encourage anyone with information about the incident to contact Detective Stump at (805) 384-4745.
Anyone who was driving a vehicle equipped with video recording equipment, such as a Tesla, in the area of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Nov. 5 are also encouraged to reach out to detectives.
Mr. Kessler died a day after he was involved in an altercation with a pro-Palestinian protestor at the Nov. 5 event. According to witnesses, he was struck in the face and fell on the pavement, hitting his head. Mr. Kessler died Nov. 6 of severe head trauma caused by the fall, authorities reported.
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, according to Chief Medical Examiner Christopher Young.
However, this determination did not provide enough evidence for investigators to make an immediate arrest, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Our investigators are working around the clock to track down leads, scrutinize electronic data, and corroborate witness statements,” the sheriff’s office said in the press release.
According to Sheriff James Fryhoff, Mr. Alnaji was one of the people who called 9-1-1 to get help for Mr. Kessler after he fell to the ground. He was also cooperative with investigators by answering questions, the sheriff said.
A day after the incident, detectives obtained a search warrant for Mr. Alnaji’s residence in Moorpark, about 18 miles north of Thousand Oaks.
Elena Colombo creates a Star of David at a makeshift memorial at the site of an altercation between 69-year-old Paul Kessler, who was Jewish, and pro-Palestinian protestor, which resulted in Mr. Kessler's death, in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Nov. 7, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Elena Colombo creates a Star of David at a makeshift memorial at the site of an altercation between 69-year-old Paul Kessler, who was Jewish, and pro-Palestinian protestor, which resulted in Mr. Kessler's death, in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Nov. 7, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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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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