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Jewish dentist killed in San Diego area shooting

"We are in contact with law enforcement who share that currently, there is no indication of the murder being motivated by antisemitism," the ADL San Diego office stated.

Police Tape. Credit: Matt Gush/Shutterstock.
Police Tape. Credit: Matt Gush/Shutterstock.

Dr. Benjamin Harouni, a recent dental graduate and Persian Jew, was killed by an apparently-disgruntled former patient on Feb. 29 at the practice he ran with his father in the San Diego area.

Just over a week prior, Smile Plus Dentistry, in El Cajon, Calif., had posted on Instagram wishing the young dentist a happy birthday.
“Becoming a dentist has been Dr. Harouni’s lifelong passion and he takes pride in providing all of his patients with honest and quality dental care,” per his bio on the practice’s website.

The Harouni family supported a Conservative synagogue, a modern Orthodox one and a Chabad in Sacramento, where the family lived before moving to the San Diego area, the San Diego Jewish World reported.

“He was extremely spiritual, wise beyond his years, and did more for his bar mitzvah project than anyone else,” Rabbi Ben Herman, of the Mosaic Law Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Sacramento, told the Jewish World. “He was a very precocious kid.”

The rabbi told the paper that Harouni’s bar mitzvah project involved working with children with disabilities and autism.

“They are really God-fearing people,” Rabbi Mendy Cohen, of Chabad of Sacramento, told the Jewish World. “They love God, they give to the community, and (the murder) is devastating.”

The El Cajon Police Department did not name the man killed in the shooting at about 4:15 p.m. on Feb. 29 in El Cajon, Calif., some 15 miles from San Diego. A man and a women were injured, police stated.

“The suspect, identified as 29-year-old El Cajon resident Mohammed Abdulkareem, was reported to have fled the shooting in a white U-Haul rental pickup truck,” the police department said.

“Investigations also revealed that Abdulkareem was a former patient of the dental office,” it added. “While the exact motive behind the shooting remains under investigation, it is believed that Abdulkareem was a disgruntled former customer.”

After witnesses told police that the suspect fled in a U-Haul truck, investigators used the city’s license plate reader system to identify the vehicle, which they learned Abdulkareem had rented. Police officers received a tip that led them to the vehicle on Thursday night, and shortly thereafter, they arrested Abdulkareem.

“Abdulkareem was found to be armed with a loaded handgun and several loaded handgun magazines,” the police stated. “Records checks on the handgun later showed that it was legally purchased by Abdulkareem, just two weeks prior to the shooting.”

The suspect, who was booked in San Diego County Central Jail, faces several felony charges, including a count of murder and two of attempted murder.

“The El Cajon Police Department mourns with the family and friends of the deceased victim and extends heartfelt condolences to those injured in yesterday’s senseless and evil act of violence,” stated Mike Moulton, chief of the El Cajon police department.

Yeshiva World News was the first to report that Benjamin Harouni, who it identified as an Orthodox Jew, was the man killed in the shooting.

It added that Los Angeles members of the nonprofit Misaskim, which assists the bereaved, spent the night at the scene to ensure that the dead body was respected according to halachah, Jewish law.

“ADL is aware of the tragic murder of a member of the Jewish community in El Cajon and feel the deepest sympathy for his family and the families of the other victims who were shot,” stated Fabienne Perlov, regional director for Anti-Defamation League San Diego.

“We are in contact with law enforcement who share that currently, there is no indication of the murder being motivated by antisemitism,” Perlov added. “ADL’s Center on Extremism has also not identified any extremist- or hate-related motivation behind the shootings at this point.”

Smile Plus Dentistry lists Jack Harouni and Benjamin Harouni as dentists who are part of the practice. The Daily Mail reported that the practice “is run by the father-and-son team of doctors Jack and Benjamin Harouni.”

“The office’s receptionist Yareli Carrillo, 28, was shot in the legs but is in stable condition and expected to survive,” the Daily Mail added. “A man in his 40s who has not been named was also injured but expected to survive.”

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