Loay Alnaji has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 69-year-old Paul Kessler
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the death of a Jewish man who died in California last week from injuries he suffered during protests over the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, authorities said.
In a statement, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect, Loay Alnaji, was arrested Thursday in the city of Moorpark and charged with involuntary manslaughter for his alleged role in the death of 69-year-old Paul Kessler.
Alnaji will be held at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility and his bail will be set at $1 million, authorities said. It’s unclear if he has entered a plea or retained an attorney to speak on his behalf.
A spokesperson for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office declined to release further information about the suspect when reached by PEOPLE on Thursday.
Kessler died on Nov. 6, almost one day after authorities said in a statement that he was involved in a “physical altercation” at a location in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where people had been rallying at pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations the day before.
During the altercation, which witnesses claim was with counter-protesters, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground, authorities previously said.
According to NBC News, video taken at the scene and shared on social media shows what appears to be Kessler lying on the ground as a woman with a Palestinian flag on her back and a man lean over him, seemingly trying to help.
Kessler, who was described by authorities as a “pro-Israeli protester,” died at an area hospital the next day. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office previously said in a statement that “an autopsy was performed on November 6th and the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death homicide.”
At a press conference on Nov. 7, Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff identified the suspect as a 50-year-old man who was "advocating for Palestine," and was one of many who called 911 reporting the incident. Fryhoff said at the time that a search warrant was executed at the suspect's home but he had not been arrested.
It’s unclear whether the unnamed suspect mentioned by Fryhoff at the press conference is Alnaji.
The agency has said it is “investigating the incident and has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.”
While an arrest has now been made, investigators are still asking anyone who may have information about the case to come forward and contact Detective Stump at (805) 384-4745.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is also encouraging those who may have captured video footage while driving in the area of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Nov. 5 to contact them.
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