The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN faculty member arrested under suspicion of death of protester

Moorpark college computer science professor and CSUN lecturer Loay Alnaji was arrested on Nov. 16 for the death of Jewish man Paul Kessler at a protest in Thousand Oaks, California.

The 50-year-old husband and father of three was charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery after Kessler, 69, fell backwards and hit his head at a “Free Palestine” protest. Kessler died hours later.

Kessler was counter-protesting in support of Israel, while Alnaji protested in support of Palestine. Kessler was also accompanied by one other counter-protester, Jonathan Oswaks.

According to CSUN student Steve Chilian, Alnaji opened up about his views on Palestine when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

“I only learned about his views on the Palestinian conflict after all that news came out. He never talked about it in class,” Chilian said.

CSUN’s computer science department declined to comment.

The Ventura County Community College District released a statement acknowledging the incident and placing Alnaji on administrative leave.

“Effective immediately, Mr. Analji will be placed on administrative leave in accordance with Education Code Section 87623,” the statement read. “Necessary protocols have been taken to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff, which will remain our top priority.”

In the ongoing investigation, eyewitness statements and video evidence clash over what caused Kessler to fall. Alnaji’s lawyer, Ron Bamieh, asserts that multiple witnesses are wrong in their statements, citing a video that shows Alnaji about 7 or 8 feet from Kessler when he fell.

“One eyewitness said Alnaji hit him over the head with his bullhorn, which is just not true, according to the video,” Bamieh said.

Prior to the fall, Bamieh said Kessler was hurling profanities at the Palestinian protesters while recording with his phone. Alnaji approached Kessler and attempted to knock the phone from his hand with a megaphone, possibly hitting him on the chin. Alnaji backed off after this confrontation.

Bamieh is confident that this video will exonerate his client from the charges.

Alnaji’s bond was set at $1 million, much higher than the usual $50k for most manslaughter cases. According to Sergeant Rob Yoos with the Ventura Sheriff’s Office, the increase was made “in an attempt to avoid a possible flight from prosecution” since Alnaji had citizenship in two countries which don’t have extradition treaties with the U.S.

Bamieh and Alnaji railed against the bond increase and requested the bail be lowered down to the standard rate.

“Some people think just because you come from a different country that you’re a flight risk,” the lawyer said.

A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 26 at the Ventura County Superior Court.

 

Correction: Loay Alnaji was previously referred to as a professor. The article has been updated to say lecturer/faculty.

One of our sources was misquoted. The quote has since been fixed.

The hearing was also moved to Feb. 26 at the Ventura County Superior Court. The time has yet to be announced. 

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