A man named Jason J. Eaton, 48, has been arrested in connection with the shooting of three Palestinian students in Burlington, Vermont. The incident occurred the night before the arrest, and the victims, Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, all 20 years old, were on their way to Awartani’s grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.
According to authorities, Eaton was taken into custody near the shooting location, and a search of his nearby apartment revealed evidence that led investigators to believe he committed the crime. The victims, students at Brown University, Haverford College, and Trinity College, are reportedly in stable condition, except for one who sustained more serious injuries to the spinal cord.
While police caution against prematurely determining a motive, there are concerns about the possibility of a hate crime. The mayor, Miro Weinberger, stated that the investigation is examining whether the attack was motivated by hate. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has expressed belief that the shooting was driven by anti-Arab sentiments, especially noting the assailant’s silence before the attack and the victims’ wearing of Palestinian keffiyehs.
Police clarified that two of the victims are American citizens, and the third is a legal resident. Senator Bernie Sanders called the shooting “shocking and deeply upsetting,” emphasizing the need for a thorough investigation. The families of the victims, along with the Ramallah Friends School, have urged law enforcement to treat the incident as a hate crime.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation, and the White House states he will continue to monitor the investigation. Burlington police have categorized the case as three incidents of aggravated assault, with Eaton expected to be arraigned in court on Monday. The incident occurs against the backdrop of reported increases in Islamophobia and antisemitism in the U.S. following the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.