A Moorpark College professor has been arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a Jewish protester who suffered head injuries during clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro- Israel demonstrators earlier this month in Thousand Oaks.
Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, of Moorpark was arrested early Thursday in the death of Paul Kessler, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced in a news release. Alnaji is being held in lieu of $1-million bail.
When reached at his home in the days after Kessler's death, Alnaji declined to comment to The Times. An attorney for the professor has not been identified.
Kessler, who was part of a pro- Israel group protesting opposite a Free Palestine rally on Nov. 5, died hours after he fell backward during a confrontation between the two groups and struck his head on the ground.
Ventura County sheriff's officials did not make an initial arrest, saying they had to unravel conflicting witness statements about what led to Kessler's fall.
An autopsy determined that Kessler died as a result of a blunt force head injury and the death was ruled a homicide, according to Ventura County Chief Medical Examiner Christopher Young.
However, Young said the manner of death doesn't necessarily point to criminal intent, only that the "death occurred at the hands of another person or the actions of another person contributed to the death of a person." Medical determinations of homicide can be legally ruled self-defense or justified.
Young said Kessler suffered a fatal injury to the back of his head that was "consistent with and typical of injuries sustained from a fall." Kessler had "nonlethal injuries" on the left side of his face, which Young said could have been caused by a blow to the face.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Office said the incident was reported just after 3:20 p.m. Nov. 5 at Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, near the Los Angeles County border. About 75 people had gathered in the opposing protests on either side of the intersection when an altercation occurred, authorities said.
Kessler, of Thousand Oaks, fell backward and struck his head on the ground, deputies said. When authorities arrived, Kessler was conscious and bleeding from his head and mouth, Fryhoff said. Kessler remained conscious at the hospital, but his condition deteriorated and he was pronounced dead just after 1 a.m. Monday, Young said.
Until Thursday's arrest, sheriff's officials had identified the suspect only as a a 50-year-old man from Moorpark, who cooperated with deputies, telling officials that he was "involved in an altercation with Mr. Kessler," Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said. The suspect was among those who called 911 after Kessler fell, the sheriff said.
The day after the deadly confrontation, deputies briefly detained Alnaji after a traffic stop in Simi Valley while investigators executed a search warrant at his home.
The sheriff said surveillance video from a gas station adjacent to the protest did not provide a clear view of the incident. Authorities asked the public to submit to authorities any video or images from that day.
A neighbor who lives across the street from the professor said that the day after the incident, a police car sat outside her house all day. The woman, who declined to give her name, said police entered the house around 7 p.m. and stayed for an hour, taking items with them when they left.
Times staff writers Terry Castleman and Grace Toohey contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.