The pro-Palestinian protester jailed on $1 million bond in the death of pro-Israel protester Paul Kessler will face hate crime charges only if investigators can determine that hate speech accompanied the blow that caused the Jewish man to fall.
Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko told reporters at a Friday press conference that the county’s Sheriff’s Department had interviewed 60 witnesses, reviewed more than 600 videos and put forth 2,000 work hours into their investigation of Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50.
“We have not ruled out a hate crime – an investigation into an alleged hate crime is ongoing,” Nasarenko said Friday. “We are looking for whether the act was accompanied by hate speech, specific words . . . that show hatred toward a specific group. We don’t have that at the moment.”
The DA’s office was called in within 24 hours of Kessler’s November 6 death, Nasarenko said, which happened hours after the 69-year-old was struck by Alnaji amid a dispute at conflicting pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests on the corners of Westlake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards in Westlake Village around 3:20 p.m. on November 5.
The blow knocked Kessler down onto the concrete – with a megaphone, witnesses told Fox News Digital – and caused skull fractures, brain bruising and swelling that would later kill him.
“New physical and forensic evidence regarding the injuries to the left side of Paul Kessler’s face” contributed to Alnaji’s arrest on Thursday, Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff said.
After he was taken into custody at his Moorpark home around 7:40 a.m. Thursday without incident, the district attorney said, Alnaji was charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery causing serious bodily injury.
Investigators have “no evidence, no statements whatsoever that the defendant arrived at that intersection with the intention to kill.” Therefore, no murder charge was pursued, Nasarenko said.
Both charges that have been filed come with “special allegations that Alnaji personally inflicted great bodily injury.”
This, Nasarenko said Tuesday, allows those charges to count toward California’s “Three Strikes” law. Should Alnaji be charged with a third crime, he would face a mandatory 25 years to life behind bars.
But the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department still has not procured evidence that could lead to a hate crime charge, despite the protests at the backdrop of the incident.
Investigators are still urging the public to come forward with any recollections or video of the November 5 incident in their investigation.
Nasarenko thanked both area Jewish and Muslim communities for their cooperation and patience amid the investigation.
A source with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department has told Fox News Digital that individuals across the country have repeatedly called the department urging swift action in the case.
Nasarenko and Fryhoff said they spoke with Kessler’s family for about 30 minutes following Alnaji’s arrest. They shared that Kessler had worked in medical sales, taught sales at a number of satellite college campuses and had been married for 44 years.
“[Kessler’s family] are mourning, they are grieving, and they are asking for privacy during this very difficult time,” Nasarenko said.
Alnaji is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. PST in Ventura County Superior Court.