El Cajon

El Cajon Food Truck Owner Shielded Customers From Gunfire in Confrontation Over Stolen Phone

The 17-year-old suspect has not been located, according to El Cajon Police

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A teenager turned himself in Wednesday and was arrested in connection with the shooting of a father who was trying to retrieve his son's stolen cell phone.

On Saturday, El Cajon Police officers found the victim, who is expected to survive, in the 700 block of Jamacha Road around 10:55 a.m., according to the department. The victim was transported to a local hospital with at least one gunshot wound.

During the investigation, detectives determined the man had tracked down two suspects, ages 17 and 14, who allegedly robbed his juvenile son at gunpoint 10 minutes before the shooting.

"The father located the suspects and made an attempt to recover the property," a police report states. "One of the two suspects used a handgun to shoot the father."

Mohammad Al Mahdawi, operator of the Mr. Shwarma food truck, used his business on wheels to shield customers from the gunfire. Easter mass at nearby St. Michael's Chaldean church had just let out, and parishioners were hungry.

"I took them on the side to hide because we didn’t know what we were dealing with," Al Mahdawi said.

The shooting victim had approached the teenagers twice about getting his son’s cell phone back, according to police.

"He took the gun out with not even thinking about it. He took the gun he shot the guy in his stomach," Al Mahdawi said.

What happened next struck Al Mahdawi.

"It was strange because he didn’t run away," he remembered. "He didn’t have a car. It wasn’t a set-up, he just took his gun, he shot and walked away."

Mr. Shawarma is again open for business but parked across the street. Al Mahdawi said he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for business and his customers haven’t lost their appetites.

On Thursday, the 17-year-old shooting suspect turned himself in to authorities. He was arrested and taken to juvenile hall on suspicion of robbery and attempted murder.

Police are still looking for the second suspect.

Anyone with information is being urged to call El Cajon police at (619) 579-3311. Tips can also be called in anonymously to Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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