College professor will stand trial in death of Jewish man during dueling pro-Palestine, pro-Israel demonstrations

A Moorpark community college professor will stand trial in the death of a 69-year-old Jewish man who died from injuries sustained during dueling demonstrations triggered by Israel’s war with Hamas.

Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji is facing involuntary manslaughter and battery charges in connection with the death of Paul Kessler. He died in the early hours of Nov. 6, shortly after he was involved in a scuffle amidst competing Israel and Palestine protests.

The confrontation between Alnaji and Kessler unfolded on Nov. 5 around 3:20 p.m. in Thousand Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles, where an estimated 70 people had gathered. Kessler at the time was part of a pro-Israel group protesting opposite a Free Palestine rally when Alnaji struck him with a megaphone, knocking him off his feet, according to prosecutors.

Witnesses later told authorities Kessler went down fast and hit his head hard on the sidewalk. An autopsy later determined that he died as a result of a blunt force head injury and his death was ruled a homicide, the Ventura County Chief Medical Examiner said.

Judge Ryan Wright on Wednesday ruled Alnaji would stand trial over Kessler’s death after listening to 18 witnesses over a two-day preliminary hearing. Prosecutors also presented evidence, including DNA analysis of blood on the megaphone — which matched Kessler’s — as well as video and audio taken on Kessler’s phone in the moments leading to his fatal fall, the district attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors also said they have yet to find evidence to indicate Alnaji committed a hate crime.

“While antisemitic hate speech was heard at the November 5, 2023, rally, there is no evidence those words were said by Alnaji,” Ventura County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

If convicted, Alnaji faces a maximum of four years in prison. After he was charged, he was also placed on administrative leave from his job in the Ventura County Community College District, which includes three colleges. He worked at Moorpark College, The Los Angeles Times reported.

His next hearing is slated for June.