US college professor charged in death of Jewish protester
November 17, 2023 12:06 PM
A California university professor was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter for the death of a Jewish man at a pro-Palestinian demonstration where an altercation broke out, local authorities said.
Loay Alnaji, 50, was arrested and remanded into custody, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office said. He is being held in lieu of a $1 million bail.
Alnaji was charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery causing serious bodily injury, the county district attorney's office said.
Police say Paul Kessler, 69, died from an injury to his head after an altercation with Alnaji on November 5 in Thousand Oaks, site of a confrontation between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters.
During the face-off, Kessler fell backward and hit his head on the ground. He died the next day in the hospital.
Footage on social media appeared to show Kessler lying on the ground clutching his head.
Alnaji was arrested after the incident, and his home searched, but police released him for lack of evidence.
Witnesses provided "contradictory statements on the nature of the altercation and the identity of the assailant," according to the sheriff's office.
According to the county coroner's office, Kessler also had a nonlethal wound on the left side of his face.
Authorities said Alnaji had been cooperative with authorities and was among people at the scene who dialed 911 for emergency help after Kessler hit the ground.
US media identified Alnaji as a professor of computer science at Ventura Community College.
Neither the sheriff's office nor the district attorney said what new evidence emerged that led to the filing of the criminal charges.
A news conference with the district attorney and Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff was called for Friday morning.
The United States, which has the largest Jewish population in the world after Israel, has seen a rise in tensions between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups in the past five weeks.
In early October, a six-year-old Muslim boy was stabbed near Chicago by a 71-year-old man, a crime directly linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, according to the police.
The Thousand Oaks incident came a month after militants of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza strip, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking over 240 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel's retaliation, which has involved an extensive bombing campaign and an intensifying ground invasion of the besieged Gaza Strip, has claimed more than 11,300 lives, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.