Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said Friday that the killing of Paul Kessler, a 69-year-old Jewish man who was killed when he was struck in the head with a megaphone by an anti-Israel protestor in Los Angeles on November 6, does not appear to be a hate crime, but his office has not "ruled out" the possibility that it was a hate crime.
“Simply put, looking at the statements as well as the words that accompany this act, we cannot at this time meet the elements of a hate crime,” Nasarenko said. “But nevertheless, we will continue to explore and investigate that offense as well as that special allegation.”
Last week, Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, was arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter for striking Kessler, resulting in his death. Jewish organizations have maintained that the deadly act of violence was motivated by antisemitism.
After being struck in the head, Kessler fell to the ground, bleeding, and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead due to blunt force trauma. The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office said that Kessler suffered from skull fractures and swelling and bruising of the brain and determined his death to be a homicide.
Jonathan Oswaks, a friend of Kessler and a witness to the incident, said that the two Jews were "stalked" by the man who would go on to assault Kessler.
It took more than a week for Alnaji to be arrested, despite his identity as the one who struck and killed Kessler being known to police the entire time.
The case has attracted national attention as the first case in which a Jewish person has been killed in the US in the wake of the Hamas massacre of over 1,200 people in Israel on October 7. The Hamas massacre has inspired a wave of antisemitism, with antisemitic incidents rising as much as 400% following October 7, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Anti-Israel protests held following the massacre have included antisemitic and even genocidal rhetoric and chants and have devolved into violence multiple times.