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'Middle Eastern' man allegedly murders Jewish dentist — but police insist suspect is just a 'disgruntled ... customer'
Composite screenshot of FOX 5 San Diego and CBS 8 San Diego YouTube videos (Deceased: Benjamin Harouni | Suspect: Mohammed Abdulkareem)

'Middle Eastern' man allegedly murders Jewish dentist — but police insist suspect is just a 'disgruntled ... customer'

A young Jewish dentist in California was gunned down in cold blood, and a "Middle Eastern" man stands accused of the crime. However, police caution that the shooting was likely not "racially or politically motivated."

Just after 4 p.m. last Thursday, police received reports of gunfire inside the Smile Plus Dentistry & Orthodontics office in El Cajon, California, about 15 miles northeast of San Diego. When they arrived, they discovered three gunshot victims: two adult males and one adult female.

Two of the victims — a man in his 40s and a woman in her 20s — were transported to an area hospital "in serious but stable condition," a police report said. Both are expected to survive.

Unfortunately, the third victim, 29-year-old dentist Benjamin Harouni succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

Witnesses claimed that the suspect immediately drove away in a white U-Haul pickup truck. Hours later, police located the vehicle and apprehended the suspect, 29-year-old Mohammed Abdulkareem of El Cajon. He was a former patient at the dental office.

When police found him, Abdulkareem was carrying "a loaded handgun and several loaded handgun magazines," the police statement claimed. Reports indicate he purchased the handgun just two weeks earlier and had rented the U-Haul truck an hour before the shooting.

Abdulkareem has been booked into San Diego County Central Jail on one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Jail records list his ethnicity as "Middle Eastern."

Because of the identities of the suspect and victim, some immediately suspected that anti-Semitic fervor may have motivated the fatal shooting. "Media outlets have been dismissing the shooting as a result of mental instability, as they often do when Jews are the victims of murderous hate," StandWithUs, a pro-Israel group, posted on Facebook the day after the shooting. "We call on law enforcement to investigate this as a hate crime."

Organizers of a Sunday night vigil in Harouni's honor also claimed that while "the role of antisemitism" in the shooting "remains to be seen," they still wanted to "bring awareness to the senseless loss of life and to highlight the identities of the victim and the perpetrator: a Jewish man killed by a Muslim man."

Rabbi Zalman Carlebach of Chabad of Downtown San Diego, a friend of the Harouni family, certainly believes anti-Jewish hatred was involved. "It’s hard to say that it wasn’t," he said. Abdulkareem’s "name is very indicative of Arab influence, and the doctor is a Jewish doctor," he added. "That’s all we know."

El Cajon Police have since addressed those accusations head on, expressing doubt in two public statements that anti-Semitism played a role. "While we are still in the early stages of the investigation, we want to make it clear that there is no indication the attack was racially or politically motivated," the department tweeted in response to the Anti-Defamation League of California.

The police report likewise insisted, "While the exact motive behind the shooting remains under investigation, it is believed that Abdulkareem was a disgruntled former customer."

The ADL office in San Diego has since tempered its language about the incident. "[T]here is no indication of the murder being motivated by antisemitism," it said in one statement. "[I]t is critical that all possible motives — including antisemitism — that led to the tragic murder of Benjamin Harouni be investigated," it added in another.

Whatever the motivation for the shooting, investigators will get to the bottom of it, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said at the vigil. "People have told me that they’re concerned that the city or the FBI or whoever’s in charge may try to sweep this under the rug and treat this as though it were a simple crime," he told attendees. "We will get to the truth of what happened."

At the time of his death, Harouni had just recently graduated from dental school and joined the dental practice owned by his parents, Jack and Hilda Harouni. Rabbi Carlebach called him "a beautiful soul" who "had his entire life ahead of him."

"Please do positive acts of kindness and spread peace to fill the world with much needed light in memory of Benjamin," he added. "May G-d comfort his parents, brothers, extended family, and the entire Jewish community."

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Cortney Weil

Cortney Weil

Sr. Editor, News

Cortney Weil is a senior editor for Blaze News.
@cortneyweil →