Young dentist killed in Calif. practice shooting

The man who was shot to death by a disgruntled patient who opened fire inside a California dental practice on February 29 has been identified as a 28-year-old dentist, according to multiple news reports.

Dr. Benjamin Harouni, who worked alongside his father, Dr. Jack Harouni, at his practice Smile Plus Dentistry & Orthodontics in El Cajon, CA, sustained gunshot wounds to his torso and died from his injuries at the scene.

Dr. Benjamin Harouni. Image courtesy of Smile Plus Dentistry.Dr. Benjamin Harouni. Image courtesy of Smile Plus Dentistry.

On the evening of February 29, Mohammed Abdulkareem, 29, was arrested on murder and attempted murder charges stemming from the shooting, which also injured two others. Abdulkareem’s other reported victims were front desk receptionist Yareli Carrillo, 27, who was shot in the leg, and a man in his 40s who has yet to be identified and was taken to the hospital for gunshot wounds and is expected to survive, according to reports.

Community members and members of Jewish advocacy groups have raised concerns about what motivated the attack. Due to the ongoing violence in Gaza, some, including the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, have said the shooting of Harouni, a Persian-Jewish American, should be investigated as a hate crime, according to a message the organization posted on Facebook.

The shooting remains under investigation, the El Cajon Police Department posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.


Considering the community’s concerns, police further stated, "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. As we continue to conduct a thorough investigation, we will keep the community informed of any new developments."

Armed with a handgun, Abdulkareem purportedly opened fire in the practice at around 4 p.m. on February 29. After shooting Harouni, Carrillo, and another man, Abdulkareem fled in a white U-Haul pickup truck with an Arizona license plate. Other people were in the practice at the time of the shooting, according to police.

After finding the truck at Balboa Park in San Diego, police searched the area, found Abdulkareem, and took him into custody at about 10 p.m., police said. 

Harouni is a 2022 graduate of the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

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