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Jewish man dies of injuries after an altercation with pro-Palestinian protesters


In Southern California, authorities are investigating the death of a Jewish man involved in an altercation at a pro-Israel rally over the weekend. NPR religion correspondent Jason DeRose reports that they've not ruled out a possible hate crime.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: Sixty-nine-year-old Paul Kessler attended a pro-Israel rally in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, on Sunday afternoon. The protest took place at the same intersection as a pro-Palestinian rally. An altercation broke out between Kessler and another person authorities are declining to name, but whom they say was there supporting Palestinians. Kessler fell and hit his head. The following day, he died from what Ventura County Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young determined to be blunt force head trauma.

CHRISTOPHER YOUNG: Internal injuries also were consistent with a fall, which included skull fractures, swelling of the brain and bruising to the brain.

DEROSE: Young says the manner of death is homicide, which he describes as a medical term, meaning just that it involved another person. Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff says the investigation is ongoing.


JAMES FRYHOFF: I can just tell you that the information we're getting is conflicting with one another. There was clearly an interaction between the two, but what that level of interaction is is still unclear.

DEROSE: Fryhoff is asking for the community's help, especially from those who may have video of the altercation. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles issued a statement saying it will not tolerate violence against the Jewish community. The Greater LA Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it stands with the Jewish community in rejecting any and all violence. The sheriff's office says of the 21 rallies that have taken place in Ventura County since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, this was the first to include violent interactions.

Jason DeRose, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.