Loay Alnaji was named as the pro-Palestinian protester and professor who is being investigated in connection with the death of Jewish protester Paul Kessler during a November 5, 2023, “altercation” in Southern California. He is now under arrest.
“Investigation leads to arrest of suspect in connection with the death of Paul Kessler,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department announced in a news release on November 16, 2023.
“On November 16, 2023, detectives from the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau contacted Loay Alnaji in the City of Moorpark and arrested him for the death of Paul Kessler. Alnaji will be booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility for California Penal Code section 192(b) – involuntary manslaughter and his bail will be set at $1,000,000,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote.
Kessler was a pro-Israel protester, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in California. Photos show Kessler holding a large Israeli flag at the scene in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
A county supervisor posted on X that Kessler was struck. However, the sheriff said in a news release on November 6, 2023, that Kessler struck his head on the ground after falling during an “altercation” with one or more counter-protesters. Sheriff’s officials have not explained what new investigative details led them to arrest Alnaji and accuse him of homicide.
Disturbing video showed Kessler lying on the ground. Kessler, 69, had been struck with a megaphone, according to a post on X (formerly Twitter) by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. However, sheriff’s officials have not confirmed (or denied) that detail in their releases. Witness Jonathan Oswaks, a man protesting with Kessler, told the Ventura County Star that “he saw a megaphone ‘flying through the air’ in a ‘white flash.'”
“They were both on an even ground, and they were yelling at each other, and then the man brought his megaphone up and hit Paul, and Paul went down,” an anonymous witness told ABC 7.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Loay Alnaji Was Described as a ‘Pro-Palestinian Professor’ Who Posted a Video on Instagram of a Man Comparing Hamas to ‘Civil Rights Icons’
The New York Post described Alnaji as a “pro-Palestinian professor” at Moorpark College in Moorpark, a city about 10 miles north of Thousand Oaks, adding that he teaches computer science.
According to The Post, Alnaji “was filmed speaking to a female officer, who could be seen taking a picture of his hands in a video.” Jewish Life Television gave the video to The Post.
“So you tried to hit the phone,” the deputy asked Alnaji in the video, the Post reported, adding that he nodded yes.
He was sitting on the curb when people came to Kessler’s aid, The Post reported.
The website of Moorpark College describes Alnaji as “Associate Professor, Computer Science.” It says he received his bachelor’s degree from Yarmouk University, a master’s degree from California State University Fresno and his DBA from Argosy University in Los Angeles.
Yarmouk University is in the country of Jordan.
His LinkedIn page says he has worked as a software engineer contractor.
Daily Mail reported that Alnaji “is unabashed in his support for the Palestinian cause, posting online a video of an activist, Shahid King Bolsen, comparing the terror group Hamas with historic civil rights icons.”
The X page Stop Antisemitism posted a video capture of the Instagram page, although accusations in its caption have not been verified yet by authorities, such as the claim that Alnaji struck Kessler in the face with a megaphone.
“If someone asked me to condemn Hamas I would say, ‘What’s the rush?’” Bolsen says in the video posted on Instagram, according to Daily Mail. “Let’s let history decide. You condemned Nelson Mandela until you didn’t, until he was a hero. You condemned Mahatma Gandhi until you didn’t. Let’s wait and see because you might change you mind on this one too.”
The Instagram page could no longer be found.
“Though an arrest has been made, we continue to encourage community members who may have information about this criminal investigation and have yet to come forward to please contact Detective Stump at (805) 384-4745,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote.
“Any persons who were driving a vehicle equipped with video recording equipment, such as Teslas, in the area of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard between 3:00 p.m. and 4 p.m. on November 5th, are encouraged to reach out to detectives or utilize the link provided below to download and submit video footage,” they wrote.
2. One Student Called Loay Alnaji an ‘Absolutely Wonderful Teacher,’ But Others Said His Assignments Are ‘Just Straight Up Too Hard for Students’ & That He Is a ‘Horrible Communicator’
On his Rate My Professors page, commenters have posted negative reviews since news broke that Alnaji was the person accused of being in the altercation with Kessler.
The comments before Kessler’s death are mixed.
“He can be nice but his assignments most of the time are way too far above a student learning level. It’s not even worthy of being called a ‘challenge’ it’s just straight up too hard for students who are supposed to be learning. You won’t learn because you have to rely on the internet so much to help you get through the assignments to get a grade,” one student wrote in September 2023.
In August, a student wrote, “He’s really nice, but can be super tough. His grading criteria is simple – your code works or it doesn’t. If there’s one thing wrong with your coding assignment that prevents it from running properly it’s a 0, so beware of that. He only grades either 100 or 0, literally nothing in between. On the bright side, its prepares you for the real world.”
However, another student wrote, “I took a summer course with him and he allowed all the class to succeed in a very good environment. I wasn’t sure about Computer Science at first but I do credit my enjoyment to the class and learning alot to Mr. Alnaji. the weekly project was very straight forward and easy.”
However, a different student was a critic of Alnaji, writing, “I have never had a worse teacher, if you can take this elsewhere (keep in mind there was a meeting with the dean about this teacher). Grade are either full credit or 1s even if you put 20 hours into the project. The quizzes always have something wrong with them and he randomly switched them to average grade instead of best grade 4 weeks in.”
Another student wrote, “Horrible communicator, he gets offended if you ask questions and is not willing to work with students.”
And another student wrote, “In one class, he taught me to build a 10 level game, Model a complete City in 3D worlds, Learned C++ , Learned to build digital circuits. He had quizzes that you can take over and over again until you get 100%, AND if you miss something the computer GIVES you a suggestion to what the correct answer is! Absolutely wonderful teacher!”
3. Police ‘Raided’ the Home on a ‘Quiet Cul-de-Sac’ Where Loay Alnaji Lives With His Wife, Who Is a Palestinian Professor, Reports Say
According to Daily Mail, police “raided his home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Moorpark, California, on Sunday evening.”
“My husband was getting home from Costco when he saw a SWAT team, six cops with rifles and full gear. Their vehicles were not police cars, they were unmarked,” Milli Revezzo, a neighbor, told DailyMail.com.
Alnaji is married to a Palestinian economics professor named Nada Al Hammouri, according to Daily Mail.
According to Politico, the sheriff said “the pro-Palestinian demonstrator stayed at the scene and told deputies he had called 911.”
4. The Sheriff Says the Suspect Was ‘Advocating for Palestine’
Ventura County Sheriff James Fryhoff said in a news conference that Kessler was a U.S. citizen of the Jewish faith and was advocating for Israel. The suspect was described as a 50-year-old man who was at the intersection and “advocating for Palestine.” Patrols were increased around mosques and Jewish community buildings, Fryhoff said.
Fryhoff said earlier on that sheriff’s officials are getting conflicting information about what happened during the “altercation.” He said, in the earlier news conference, that authorities still didn’t know whether a “blow to the face” caused the fall, which is what caused the fatal injuries to Kessler. The sheriff said it’s not clear who the aggressor was because officials are getting conflicting information.
Ventura County Sheriff’s officials said in a news release that the death is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department announced in a news release that “This is an active, on-going investigation and appears to be an isolated incident.”
The release notes, “The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident and has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.”
Ventura County Supervisor Jeff Gorell wrote on X, “I’m heartbroken to hear of the tragic death of an elderly man today after having been struck at a protest in my district. My prayers are with this man’s family and friends. Our whole community grieves at this senseless loss of life. I call for peace in our community.”
He continued, “I immediately reached out to local leaders at the Islamic Center of Conejo Valley & to our local Rabbis. I called for peace in our community. Hate and violence are never the answer. We must have faith in the process. There is an investigation. It will be fair and thorough.”
5. Sheriff’s Officials Say the Death Was Labeled a ‘Homicide’ Due to ‘Blunt Force Head Injury’ By the Medical Examiner
According to a news release from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, “a 69-year-old man, identified as Paul Kessler, died as a result of injuries sustained during an altercation at a Pro-Israeli / Pro-Palestinian event, both of which were occurring simultaneously at the intersection of Westlake Blvd. and Thousand Oaks Blvd.”
It continues, “An autopsy was performed on November 6th and the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force head injury and the manner of death homicide.”
However, a medical examiner’s determination of homicide does not necessarily mean the homicide was criminal in nature, a determination that will be made by prosecutors.
On November 5, 2023, at approximately 3:20 p.m., multiple citizens “called the Ventura County Sheriff’s Communication Center to report a battery had occurred at the intersection of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard in the City of Thousand Oaks. The intersection was the location of a Pro-Israeli / Pro-Palestinian demonstration,” the release says.
Upon arrival, “responding deputies located Kessler, who was suffering from a head injury,” the release says. “Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protestor(s). During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground. Kessler was transported to an area hospital for advanced medical treatment. On November 6, 2023, Kessler succumbed to his injuries.”
The Sheriff’s Department noted, “This is an active and ongoing investigation, and the incident appears to be isolated and not part of a large effort. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is requesting assistance from the public regarding this ongoing investigation. Anyone who witnessed or has knowledge of the incident, or who was present at the demonstration is encouraged to contact Detective Stump at (805) 384-4745.”
Video showed that protestors kept chanting even after Kessler was injured and his blood remained on the sidewalk.
Photos showed that his wife, Cheryl, was also present at the protest.
According to VC Star, Kessler “worked in the medical field and had two adult children.”
The site reported that Kessler “was trying to organize pro-Israel counter protests at the intersection.”
Rabbi Michael Barclay, who describes himself as “the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha,” wrote on X, “To make things clear. Paul’s death has been ruled by the M.E. a homicide, but to quote the Chief of Police, whom I just hung up, that can range from an accident to intentional murder and anywhere in between.”
He added, “PLEASE let Sheriff Fryhoff and Chief Paris do their jobs. As of right now, there are multiple conflicting witness reports, and no video of what happened before Paul hit the ground. These are good men, and please have faith they will see justice.”
Barclay wrote, “Law enforcement has identified a suspect who was in an altercation with Paul Kessler immediately prior to his death. They are attempting to identify exactly what happened, as there is no video yet of the altercation. Witnesses range from it was verbal to him hitting Paul.”
However, the Los Angeles Times reported that no suspect was under arrest.
According to Barclay, “These demonstrators have been looking for violence, shouting profanities, and stopping cars for the last 3 Sundays. But we MUST let the police do their job. Ventura County Sheriff and 1000 Oaks Police have integrity, and are being cautious and careful before making accusations. We need to do the same; and not let this become a spark that starts an inferno. May Paul’s memory be a blessing and his family comforted among the mourners of Zion.”
He wrote earlier, “As the Rabbi in Westlake, I just got off the phone with the Chief of Police. As of 5:42pm, this is the situation: They have conflicting reports of what happened, and they did interview the suspect that is identified in social media at the event. They have no video.”
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