California authorities seek video, urge patience in investigation into death of Jewish demonstrator

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Days after asking for the public’s help to determine what happened at a California protest that resulted in a Jewish demonstrator’s death, authorities said Thursday they still have no video of the incident and are urging patience as they investigate.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department asked anyone who may have been driving a car equipped with cameras near the intersection where the protest occurred to reach out and share video.

“Currently, we do not have any footage of the actual incident taking place, which would be extremely helpful in this case and would undoubtedly show or could even refute criminal culpability,” the department said in a statement.

Paul Kessler, 69, died early Monday at a hospital following a Sunday confrontation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator over the Israel-Hamas war in Thousand Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles. Sheriff Jim Fryhoff said Tuesday that deputies determined Kessler had fallen backward and struck his head on the ground.

The pro-Palestinian demonstrator stayed at the scene and told deputies he had called 911, Fryhoff said.

Officials have said investigators were getting conflicting information from witnesses on both sides about what took place before the fall and had not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. No arrests have been made.

“Witnesses with conflicting statements impair witness credibility, create reasonable doubt, cause unreliable testimony, and strain a prosecutor’s ability to prove a case,” Thursday’s statement said. Investigators urged anyone who was at the protest to come forward.

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. About 75 people in total were there and patrols in the area reported seeing no indication of violence 15 minutes before the altercation happened, officials said.

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

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