El Cajon

GARDENERS, HEADS UP! CITY LAUNCHES JUNE BLOOM OF EL CAJON COMPETITION

By Chris Berg, marketing and engagement manager,  City of El Cajon

 

March 14, 2024 (El Cajon)  - The City of El Cajon announces its inaugural June Bloom of El Cajon competition, a community-focused event designed to inspire and reward the creation of green spaces across our urban landscape. This initiative, in partnership with Armstrong Garden Centers, aims to engage citizens and businesses alike in fostering a greener, more vibrant City.

 

The June Bloom competition invites all residents and business owners in El Cajon to participate in transforming the community through the power of gardening. By enhancing front yards, balconies, storefronts, and community spaces with lush plants and creative landscaping, participants will not only contribute to the beautification of the City but also have the chance to win thousands of dollars in prizes.


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TWIN BROTHERS ARRESTED FOR SERIES OF RETAIL THEFTS IN EL CAJON

East County News Service

 

March 13, 2024 (El Cajon) – El  Cajon Police have arrested twin brothers for a series of retail thefts between January 23 and February 24. Ali and Shuaib Ahmed, 28, are accused of orchestrating five retail thefts at the Ultra Beauty Store in El Cajon, allegedly stealing over $3,000 in merchandise, as well as a Feb. 24 theft at JC Penney in El Cajon, where goods valued at $700 were stolen.


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EL CAJON SEEKS MANAGEMENT PROPOSALS FOR EAST COUNTY MARKET NIGHTS EVENTS

By Chris Berg, marketing and engagement manager, city of El Cajon

March 13, 2024 (El Cajon) —The city of El Cajon is inviting experienced and innovative event planners and organizations to submit proposals for the management of the newly conceived East County Market Nights. This weekly event, set to transform downtown El Cajon every Thursday evening, combines a certified Farmers Market with a dynamic nightlife experience, including live music, gourmet food trucks, and a beer and wine garden. Video Preview


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WALL THAT HEALS COMES TO EL CAJON MARCH 21-24: VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

By Miriam Raftery

 

Image courtesy of the City of El Cajon

 

March 12, 2024 (El Cajon) -- “The Wall That Heals”, a ¾-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with a Mobile Education Center, will be at Wells Park in El Cajon March 21-24. Volunteers are needed to help make this amazing educational opportunity happen. 


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EL CAJON STATE OF CITY ADDRESS TOUTS REVITALIZATION

By Bransen P. Harper
 
Photos courtesy: City of El Cajon screenshots
 
March 11, 2024 (El Cajon) -- In his State of the City address on February 7, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells outlined his major plans for growth in a city that has been plagued by several issues related to the post-recovery period of Covid and the homelessness epidemic. 

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PARENTS SPEAK OUT OVER DEMOTION OF SANTANA EDUCATORS

By Kirsten Andelman

March 11, 2024 (San Diego’s East County) -- Close to 100 people came before the Grossmont Union High School District board meeting February 22, eager to hear -- and be heard -- regarding disciplinary action taken against four educators at Santana High School after a teenager was sex-trafficked in 2021. 


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GROSSMONT UNION DISTRICT BOARD SET TO CONSIDER CUTTING DOZENS OF JOBS

By Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
 
A school bus at Grossmont High School. Photo by Chris Stone, Times of San Diego
 
March 11, 2024 (El Cajon) -- An East County school board will consider two items Tuesday that could lead to the elimination of teaching, administrative and classified positions.
 
Eighty-six jobs are on the line, according to two human resources items on the agenda for the Grossmont Union High School District.

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FUNDRAISERS FOR FAMILY OF SLAIN DENTIST AND YOUNG MOM HURT IN DENTAL CLINIC SHOOTING

Dr. Harouni’s family also announces plans to start charity,  Hearts Over Hate

By Miriam Raftery

March 9, 2024 (El Cajon) – Yareli Carrillo, mother of a 9-month-old baby, was one of two people injured when a gunman opened fire on Feb. 29 at the Smile Plus Dentistry & Orthodontics clinic in El Cajon where she works as an administrative assistant.  The shooter, a former patient, also killed Dr. Benjamin Harouni.

The young mother was shot five times in the legs, and has been hospitalized in stable condition.  Yarelli Carillo’s family has started a fundraiser on GoFundMe.  Organizer Edgar Hernandez says. Your generous contributions will directly support Yareli as she rebuilds her life, covering medical expenses, ongoing treatment, and ensuring the well-being of her baby boy in a stable and nurturing environment. Together, we can make a difference and bring hope and healing to Yareli and her family.”

Jake Harouni has set up a separate fundraiser to assist the family of his brother, Dr.. Benjamin Harouni. “We're organizing a charity - Hearts Over Hate - to support families affected by violent crimes, offering them much-needed counseling and support, particularly for those who lack the resources to access these services,” Jake Harouni writes.

He adds, ”Our enduring vision is to foster peace by educating young people and nurturing environments of love and kindness. This proactive approach aims to prevent such tragedies from recurring.”


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MAYOR BILL WELLS TO SQUARE OFF AGAINST CONGRESSWOMAN SARA JACOBS IN 51ST DISTRICT

By Miriam Raftery

March 6, 2024 (San Diego’s East County) – Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, a Democrat, has finished first in the primary election in the 51st Congressional district, with 56.28% of the vote.  She will run-off against El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, a Republican, in the November general election. Wells captured 40.09% of the votes tallied thus far.

Wells has served as the city's mayor since 2013, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy left by resignation of Mayor Mark Lewis. He was later elected and twice won reelection. Should his Congressional bid be unsuccessful he would remain as mayor, since his term ends in 2024.*


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BENJAMIN HAROUNI VIGIL IN EL CAJON CALLS FOR PEACE AND DEEPER INVESTIGATION

By Nadin Brzezinski
 
Photos: Tom and Nadin Abbott
 
March 5, 2024 (El Cajon) -- On Thursday February 29, Dr. Benjamin Harouni (photo within a photo, left), a Jewish American dentist of Mizrahi extraction, the family is originally from Iran, was murdered in El Cajon. The alleged shooter was 29-year-old Mohammed Abdulkareem. The reality is that this shooting, in the environment of antisemitism we live in, triggered fear in the local community.
 
Jake Harouni (photo, left) is Dr. Benjamin Harouni's younger brother. Understandably, he was emotional when he read a prepared statement, a eulogy to his brother. He asked anyone who faced loss, “Where do I even begin? My brother, Doctor Benjamin Harouni, was beyond life. Those who knew him knew he was one of the most empathetic, selfless, dear souls they have ever known.”

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MURDER VICTIM DESCRIBED BY RABBIS AS "SWEET" AND "EXTREMELY SPIRITUAL"

By Donald H. Harrison, San Diego Jewish World, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

March 2, 2024 (El Cajon) -- Dr. Benjamin Harouni (photo, left), a recent dental school graduate who was murdered Thursday at the dental offices of his father, Dr. Jack Harouni, in El Cajon, was described by members of the Jewish community who knew him as “sweet,” “extremely spiritual,” and “wise beyond his years.”
 
Many friends of the family are expected at the funeral service, which tentatively has been scheduled for 10 a.m., Sunday, March 3, at El Camino Memorial Park, 5600 Carroll Cayon Road, San Diego.

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VICTIM KILLED BY SHOOTER AT EL CAJON DENTAL CLINIC WAS JEWISH; FBI JOINS INVESTIGATION

 

Update 7 p.m.: The Medical Examiner has confirmed the death of Benjamin Ariel Harouni, 28, of gunshot wounds.

By Miriam Raftery

March 1, 2024 (El Cajon) – Multiple Jewish media outlets report that the man killed at the Smile Plus Dentistry & Orthodonics clinic in  El Cajon late yesterday  was Dr. Benjamin Harouni, an Orthodox Jew at the clinic run by Harouni and his father. Authorities have not yet confirmed the victim’s identity, however the Jewish publication Yeshiva World News first published his name along with a photo confirming that Misakim members from  Los Angeles spent the scene at the scene watching over the body to assure that Jewish law was respected.  Jewish News Syndicate has also named Harouni as the fatality victim.

The shooting suspect, Mohammed Abdulkareem,29, was arrested after an intensive manhunt. He has been charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder, for two other workers who were injured.  El Cajon Police have indicated the suspect was a disgruntled former patient, but an investigation into his motives continues, with speculations raised online over whether these may have been anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Fabienne Perlov,  Regional Director of the The Anti-Defamation League in San Diego, has issued a statement indicating that its  Center on Extremism "has not identified any extremist or hate-related motivation behind the shootings at this point." 

The carnage might have been worse, if not for a swift response by El Cajon Police. After receiving reports of gunshots in the clinic at 4:14 p.m., officers arrived two minutes later and found the three gunshot victims, an ECPD press release indicates.  According to Yeshiva, Harouni “was found inside the office as the shooting was still ongoing and was taken outside by officers, where they attempted to perform lifesaving measures,” however he died at the scene.


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ACTIVE SHOOTING SUSPECT IN EL CAJON ARRESTED: 1 DEAD, 2 INJURED

 

Update  March 1, 2024:  Officers and a mobile forensic lab remains on scene. Police have not revealed details, however a city official told  ECM that the shooting suspect was a digruntled patient. He has been charged with first degree murder.

Update 10  p.m.: The suspect is in custody,  per El Cajon Police post on X.

February 29, 2024 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police seeks public help to locate Mohammed Abdulkareem, 29, who is considered armed and dangerous. He is the suspect in an active shooter event tonight at the Smile Plus dental office in the 400 block of Magnolia Avenue.

He is described as light-skinned, wearing all black clothing. He fled the scene in a white U-haul pickup truck with Arizona license plate  AM 14894, last seen heading north on N. Mollison. If you see him or have any information, please call El Cajonj Police at 619 579-3311 or call 911.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: PRESIDENT’S DAY PATRIOTISM

Photo by Robert Gehr

February 29, 2024 (El Cajon) -- El Cajon shows its patriotic spirit on President’s Day.


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HOMELESS REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER ARRESTED AFTER GRABBING PURSE IN WOMAN’S APARTMENT

East County News Service

February 28, 2024 (El Cajon) – Four days after being released from jail, a homeless registered sex offender on parole is behind bars again. Samuel Salas, 36, was arrested Feb. 26 after entering a woman’s apartment on South Magnolia in El Cajon.


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TEENS ARRESTED FOR ROBBERY OF GAMESTOP STORE IN EL CAJON, TWO MORE SUSPECTS SOUGHT

East County News Service

February 27, 2024 (El Cajon) – Two teenage boys were arrested following a robbery at the Game Stop Store, 318 Broadway in El Cajon yesterday. El Cajon Police are still seeking two additional suspects.


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WATER CONSERVATION GARDEN REOPENS TODAY; JPA TO TAKEOVER OPERATIONS

Tomatomania event restored, will take place March 8-9

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left by Andy Franks:  Lauren Magnuson and Tim  Townsley are all smiles at entry of reopened Water Conservation Garden.

February 27, 2024 (Rancho San Diego, CA) – The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College reopened to the public today, after the Garden’s  Joint Powers Authority agreed to takeover operations from the financially struggling nonprofit group, Friends of the Water Conservation Garden. Following a brief closure,  Interim Executive Director Lauren Magnuson announced that she is “thrilled” that the Garden will be  “in bloom again.”

Hours will be limited initially to Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.to 4 p.m.  Education programs such as  Ms. Smarty Plants are temporarily paused until the operational transition is completed. 

The popular “Tomatomania” event has been restored and will be held as originally scheduled March 8-9.


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FAMILY OF TODDLER CRITICALLY INJURED BY WRONG-WAY DRIVER IN EL CAJON NEEDS HELP TO PAY MEDICAL BILLS

By Miriam Raftery

February 24, 2024 (El Cajon) – The family of Akeel Robinson, a 17-month-old toddler critically injured by flying concrete in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver Jan. 28 in El Cajon have launched a GoFundMe drive to help pay medical expenses. The boy remains hospitalized with serious head and neck injuries.Donate here:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/medical-expenses-for-baby-akeel?utm_campaign=...

Akeel’s father, Anthony Robinson, was stopped at a traffic light in El Cajon with his three children in the family’s SUV, including Akeel, who was asleep in a car seat. Then a woman driving  a pickup truck the wrong-way on I-8 crashed into a concrete guardrail and plunged off the overpass.  It struck a wall below and burst into flames next to Robinson’s SUV. The wrong-way driver, Katy Frausto Aguilar, died at the scene.

Robinson was able to help his two older children out of the vehicle, but Akeel was slumped over, his head bleeding. He was rushed to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he underwent surgery for a fractured skull. To reduce brain swelling, he was put into a medically induced coma with part of his skull temporarily removed.

Ashleigh Jarrell, a cousin of Akeel’s mother, Kayte Blocker, has organized the GoFundMe page as the family’s medical bills mount.


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WOMAN ARRESTED FOR SHOPLIFTING WITH CHILD IN STROLLER

East County News Service
 
February 23, 2024 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police arrested a young mother on February 1st  for allegedly stealing merchandise from Dick’s Sporting Goods in Parkway and removing anti-theft sensors—all while pushing her young child around the store in a stroller.

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ALEGRIA RESIGNS FROM CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD

 

Updated  February 22, 2024

By Miriam Raftery

February 21, 2024 (El Cajon)— A resignation letter from  Trustee Jo Alegria dated February 15 was read aloud this week at the Cajon Valley Union School District board meeting by board president Jim Miller. 

The County Office of Education has now confirmed that the  Superinendent of Education has received a formal resignation letter from  Alegria, who has represented seat 3, making the effective date February 21.. The office’s chief of staff, Music Watson, says that within 60 days of a vacancy occurring, a district’s governing board must either order an election or make a provisional appointment to fill the vacancy.  View full procedures here.  See map of district seats,below right.

Alegria has served on the CVUSD board for nearly a decade.  Elected in November 2014,  she has also served as board president. Her resignation follows her missing the past two board meetings, and comes after critics posted negative remarks on social media.

In her resignation letter, Alegria said it has been an “honor and a privilege to serve on the board, adding that she believes “passionately in the importance of public education and public service...”


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SEX OFFENDER FOUND GUILTY OF SEX ACTS WITH MINOR IN EL CAJON MOTEL

By Miriam Raftery

February 19, 2024 (El Cajon) – A convicted sex offender, Michael Inman, was convicted Wednesday on four felony sex offenses including sex with a 16-year-old girl at a Motel 6 on Montrose Court in El Cajon. His co-defendant, Larry Cantrell, pleaded guilty last month to several sexual offenses.


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WATER CONSERVATION GARDEN CLOSES AMID RESTRUCTURING

Will the Grossmont-Cuymaca Community College District or the Water Conservation Garden Joint Powers Authority step in to operate the Garden?

By Miriam Raftery

February 16, 2024 (Rancho San Diego) – The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College, a treasured community destination, has closed temporarily amid efforts to reorganize under new leadership.

“As we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, we will be undergoing major structural changes,” interim executive director Lauren Magnuson announced in an email sent to media and supporters of the Garden. “A reopening date will be announced in the future...The Garden is committed to reopening and continuing its mission to educate and inspire the community to promote water conservation,” she concluded, adding, “We look forward to welcoming you back soon with a renewed and thriving Water Conservation Garden experience!”

The temporary closure announcement follows months of financial concerns stemming primarily from large loans taken out by the Garden’s former director, Jennifer Pillsbury, during and after COVID.


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SUSPECTED DUI DRIVER CRASHES INTO EL CAJON HOME, INJURES DRIVER AND PASSENGERS

By Miriam Raftery 

February 12, 2024 (El Cajon) – A driver and two passengers sustained major injuries when a 2011 Buick Enclave SUV crashed into a home at 9060 Winter Gardens Blvd. in El Cajon shortly after 3 a.m.


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EL CAJON'S YOUTH OF THE YEAR NOMINATIONS SOUGHT

East County News Service

February 9, 2024 (El Cajon) -- The City of El Cajon's Teen Coalition is now accepting nominations for the “Youth of the Year” award. This accolade is aimed at recognizing exceptional middle and high school students who have shown an extraordinary commitment to serving their community within the City of El Cajon. 


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CITY OF EL CAJON ATTEMPTS WORLD RECORD "MOST DOGS TO ATTEND A FILM SCREENING" FEB. 24

East County News Service

 

February 9, 2024 (El Cajon) -- The City of El Cajon aims to break the world record for the “Most Dogs to Attend a Film Screening.” A family-friendly screening of the movie “Beethoven” will take place at Wells Park, located at 1153 East Madison Avenue, on Saturday, February 24. Dog owners and their furry friends are invited to be part of this historic attempt .

 

To participate in this record-setting endeavor, dog owners are required to arrive for check-in at 1:00 PM, with the movie screening to commence shortly after. The current record stands at 219 dogs, and El Cajon is eager to surpass this number. This event is not only a chance to make history but also an opportunity for the community and their dogs to enjoy an afternoon full of entertainment and fun.


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FREE LECTURE ON FIRE-WISE LANDSCAPING AT THE WATER CONSERVATION GARDEN

East County News Service

February 8, 2024 (El Cajon) -- California's landscape will always be characterized by wildfires, making homes and properties vulnerable to their impacts. A key component of wildfire preparedness involves proper placement and maintenance of the vegetation surrounding the home. Understanding how fires approach a house and potential vulnerabilities is critical for designing fire-resilient landscapes.

In this presentation, Tuesday, February 13 at 10 a.m., there will be discussion on the key concepts of defensible space and home hardening strategies necessary to create a fire-resilient but aesthetically pleasing landscape. 


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WOMAN DIES IN FIERY EL CAJON CRASH

Updated Feb. 24 with information on fundraising effort to help toddler critically injured in crash

By Miriam Raftery

February 8, 2024 (El Cajon) – A woman who died January 28 in a fiery El Cajon crash has been identified as Katalina “Katy” Frausto Aguilar, 43, of El Cajon. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her widow and their children.

A separate GoFundMe fundraiser has been launched to pay medical bills of Akeel, a 17-monthh-old toddler who suffered serious head and neck injuries in the crash. Akeel was asleep in his father's SUV parked at a stoplight when Aguilar lost control of her vehicle while driving the wrong direction on I-8. View article with latest updates on Akeel's condition.


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GUESS WHO IS AT THE MAGNOLIA THIS FRIDAY FEB. 9

East County News Service

February 7, 2024 (El Cajon) -- Guess Who is at The Magnolia this Friday? The Guess Who! A few tickets to the 6:30 p.m. show are still available and start at $55.

The Guess Who is a legendary Canadian band that enjoyed chart-topping hits in the late '60s and early '70s with an impressive catalog of songs including “American Woman,” “These Eyes,” and “No Time.” During the course of its career, the band has released 11 studio albums and charted 14 Top 40 hit singles, 2 of which went to number one in the United States. The Guess Who is best known internationally for its 1970 album, American Woman, which hit number one in Canada and number nine in the United States, with five other albums also hitting the top ten in Canada.

Their fan base spans multiple generations. Very few bands have survived numerous member changes — let alone having smash hits with each lineup — but The Guess Who’s motto is “the music is the message.”


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THEFT SUSPECT ARRESTED AFTER INJURING WORKER AT PARKWAY PLAZA

East County News Service

 

February 7, 2024 (El Cajon) – Yesterday afternoon, a man entered Big 5 Sporting Goods on Fletcher Parkway, selected merchandise, and then exited the store without paying. A store employee attempted to stop the man from stealing. 

 

According to El Cajon Police, the man swung a plastic bag containing a small metal propane bottle at the employee and struck her in the forehead, causing pain and minor injury. The employee was able to use her cell phone to photograph the man as he fled the area toward the trolley.  


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EAST COUNTY HONORS AWARDS GALA

By Jonathan Goetz

February 5, 2024 (El Cajon) -- The East County Honors Awards Gala is a prestigious and celebratory occasion that showcases the achievements and contributions of the East County communityThe East County Regional Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual event, supports and promotes the economic development and community interests of the East County region of San Diego County.

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