El Cajon, California
El Cajon, CaliforniaiStock

The brother of a San Diego-area Jewish dentist who was shot dead at his office this past Thursday says his brother was “murdered in cold blood” in an act of hate, JTA reported on Monday.

The dentist, Benjamin Harouni, was killed and two other people were injured in last week’s shooting at Harouni’s dental practice in El Cajon, California, some 15 miles from San Diego.

Local police have not declared the incident a hate crime, saying that the motive for the shooting remains under investigation and noting that the alleged murderer, identified as Mohammed Abdulkareem, appears to have been “a disgruntled former customer” of Harouni’s dental practice.

But Harouni’s brother, Jake, wrote in a post on Instagram, “Those saying this was not a hate crime need to rethink what they define as hate. As a Persian-Jewish American, I have always felt so scared and vulnerable during these times of hatred. Now that it is at my front door, it feels much more real and urgent.”

Multiple Jewish advocacy groups are demanding that local police investigate whether antisemitism played a role in Dr. Benjamin Harouni’s killing, and his childhood rabbi said at his funeral Sunday morning that he was “struck down in a senseless act of violence, in all likelihood because he was a Jew”, according to JTA.

At a vigil Sunday night, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells acknowledged fears that law enforcement could obscure antisemitic motivations for the murder but promised to uncover the facts.

“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,” Wells said.

He pledged, “We will get to the truth of what happened.”