In this photo provided by JLTV, Paul Kessler attends a...

In this photo provided by JLTV, Paul Kessler attends a demonstration in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sunday Nov. 5, 2023. California authorities have arrested a man in connection with the death of a Jewish protester during demonstrations over the Israel-Hamas war. Credit: AP

LOS ANGELES — A Southern California college professor was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter and battery in the death of a Jewish protester during demonstrations over the Israel-Hamas war.

Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said in a statement that both charges have special allegations that Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, personally inflicted “great bodily injury” on Paul Kessler, 69, during a fatal confrontation at an event that started as a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Thousand Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles.

Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another person.

A man who answered the phone at a mobile number listed for Alnaji in public records said he did not want to comment. He did not give his name.

Kessler was among a group of pro-Israel demonstrators who showed up at the event that was advertised as a peaceful gathering to support Palestinians, officials said. Kessler died early Nov. 6 at a hospital, a day after the protest.

The district attorney did not explain what evidence they had to support those charges but planned a news conference for Friday.

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff told reporters on Nov. 7 that deputies determined Kessler fell backward and struck his head on the ground but that investigators did not have a clear view from video footage of what they described as a physical altercation between the two men before the fall. He asked the public for help in providing additional footage.

Flowers and flags are left at a makeshift shrine placed...

Flowers and flags are left at a makeshift shrine placed at the scene of a Sunday confrontation that lead to death of a demonstrator Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Paul Kessler, 69, died at a hospital on Monday from a head injury after witnesses reported he was involved in a "physical altercation" during pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations at an intersection in Thousand Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said. Credit: AP/Richard Vogel

Fryhoff at that time said investigators had not ruled out whether it was a hate crime.

The suspect stayed at the scene and told deputies he had called 911, Fryhoff said, adding that authorities later briefly detained him for questioning and searched his home in Moorpark.

Fryhoff said investigators had received conflicting information from witnesses on both sides about what took place, impairing witness credibility and making it difficult to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The department did not respond to questions Thursday from The Associated Press as to whether additional footage or other evidence prompted the arrest.

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff takes questions during a news...

Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff takes questions during a news conference at the Ventura Sheriff's East County Station in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Authorities say a 69-year-old Jewish man has died after a confrontation during competing pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations in California. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department says Paul Kessler died Monday at a hospital from a head injury, a day after a physical altercation during protests in Thousand Oaks, northwest of Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Richard Vogel

A short video clip surfaced showing Kessler on the ground, but there haven’t been any videos released showing the actual confrontation.

County Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young said at the time that an autopsy found Kessler died from head injuries consistent with a fall. Young also said Kessler had injuries that could be consistent with a blow to the face but that it was unclear what caused his fall.

Edward Obayashi, a former San Diego police officer and special prosecutor, said he is not surprised by the arrest on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, the lowest level charge for a death. Additional charges, including for a hate crime, could still be considered, said Obayashi, who made one of the first arrests in the state under California’s hate crime law more than three decades ago.

“We have a very high profile incident, obviously, given the backdrop of what’s going on in the world," he said. "So there is a lot of pressure on the authorities. The default position is making an arrest.”

Demonstrations have been widespread and tensions are escalating in the United States as the death toll rises in the Israel-Hamas war.

Alnaji, a professor of computer science at Moorpark College, had espoused pro-Palestinian views on his Facebook page and other social media accounts, many of which have since been taken down, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said in a statement that it was grateful for the work of sheriff's investigators.

“This arrest shows that violence towards our Jewish community will not be tolerated,” the federation said.

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