Authorities said Thursday that they do not have enough evidence to arrest a suspect after an elderly Jewish man died after an altercation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator in Thousand Oaks.
On Nov. 6, the victim, Paul Kessler, 69, suffered a severe head injury and was found at the intersection of Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards where demonstrations were taking place involving pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups.
He was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
“Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protester(s),” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. “During the altercation, Kessler fell backward and struck his head on the ground.”
According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Kessler was “struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor.”
A video posted to social media shows him lying on the ground as two people, including a pro-Palestinian demonstrator, try to help.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Kessler’s cause of death was a blunt force head injury and ruled the manner of death to be homicide, authorities confirmed.
In the days following his death and amid heightened tensions between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups, deputies acknowledged that “many have expressed frustration and anger that no arrests have been made” and are questioning “why the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office isn’t prosecuting the suspect.”
In a statement on Thursday, deputies said although Kessler’s death was ruled a homicide, they do not have enough evidence to establish a probable cause to arrest a suspect.
The statement pointed to several reasons including lack of actual footage of the altercation taking place and conflicting statements from multiple witnesses.
“When law enforcement has enough probable cause to make an arrest and have the District Attorney file charges, it means they have objective evidence that indicates the suspect’s responsibility for the crime,” the statement read. “Probable cause is a requirement found in the Fourth Amendment that must be met before the police make an arrest. Conflicting statements from multiple witnesses can make it difficult to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
At the time, the sheriff’s office said the case was being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Although no arrests have been made and no suspect information was released, authorities noted the case remains under investigation. Detectives are seeking help from the public and asking for any relevant videos or photos from the scene.
The sheriff’s office said they will be increasing patrols and presence at places of worship in response to the “rising global tensions and threats of attacks on religious sites.”
Ventura County officials are asking anyone who witnessed or has knowledge of the incident to contact Detective Stump at 805-384-4745.
Any witnesses who may have been driving near the area during the time of the incident and have vehicles equipped with video recording capabilities can submit footage and pictures by reaching out to investigators or submitting through this link.
Anonymous tips can be provided to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.