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Three students of Palestinian descent who were on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner in Vermont were suddenly attacked and shot.
On November 25, the Burlington Police Chief, John Murad, referred to the attack as a “unprovoked and terrible” crime during a press conference held two days after the incident.
Currently, the alleged perpetrator, Jason Eaton, who is 48 years old, is under arrest. Federal authorities are looking into the possibility that the shooting was a hate crime, while the three students start their journey towards recovery and their families search for answers.
This is the information we have regarding the assault.
Three college students, Hisham Awartani (20), Tahseen Ali, and Kenan Abdulhamid, were on their way to Mr. Awartani’s grandmother’s Thanksgiving dinner on November 25th.
According to authorities, a Caucasian man shot four bullets at three individuals who were on their way to Mr. Awartani’s grandmother’s house. The gunman did not utter a word before running away on foot.
Three individuals who were attacked are of Palestinian heritage, according to the police. Two of them were wearing keffiyehs during the incident. At a press conference, Mr. Murad stated that the three students were conversing in both English and Arabic when the unprovoked attack occurred.
According to a statement from the police, the shooter injured two students in the chest and one in the legs. The three victims are currently receiving treatment in the intensive care unit at a nearby hospital, as confirmed by Rich Price, uncle of Mr Awartani.
The families of the victims are speaking up.
Police reported that two of the victims are in a stable condition, but the third suffered more severe injuries. According to Mr Murad, authorities were only able to communicate with two of the students after the assault, as the third required medical attention.
As of Monday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger stated that Mr. Awartani is the most severely injured out of the three men.
According to a person close to Elisabeth Price, the mother of Mr. Awartani who resides in the West Bank under Israeli occupation, the perpetrator shot him in the back, causing paralysis. As of Monday, medical professionals are attempting to improve the blood circulation in Mr. Awartani’s spinal area.
Mr. Price informed journalists that he has been continuously with the three individuals who were attacked.
“I am amazed by their ability to bounce back and maintain a positive attitude despite the challenges they are facing,” stated Mr Price during his Monday address.
According to a statement from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Mr Awartani attends Brown University in the neighboring city of Providence, Rhode Island. Additionally, Mr Abdalhamid is a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and Mr Ahmad is currently enrolled at Trinity College in Connecticut.
The parents of the victims issued a statement together through the Institute of Middle East Understanding, urging law enforcement to classify the shooter’s actions as a hate crime and requesting privacy as they attend to their children.
The statement states the importance of safeguarding our children and preventing this terrible crime from happening again.
The FBI and ATF are conducting an investigation to determine if the shooting was motivated by hate.
“Currently, the ATF and FBI are conducting an investigation into the unfortunate shooting of three men with Palestinian backgrounds in Vermont. The investigation, which includes determining if this was a hate crime, is still in progress,” stated US Attorney General Merrick Garland on November 27th.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents apprehended Mr. Eaton while conducting a survey the day following the shooting.
According to Mr. Murad, officials initially recognized Mr. Eaton when they approached his apartment and he exited the residence with his hands raised on November 26th.
The man emerged from the door and approached the agents with his palms raised at waist level, according to Mr Murad. He said something along the lines of, “I have been anticipating your arrival.”
According to Mr. Murad, Mr. Eaton informed the officers that he possessed a firearm in his residence and requested legal representation.
At his arraignment on November 27, Mr. Eaton’s lawyers stated that he admitted guilt to three counts of second degree attempted murder. The charges have the possibility of resulting in a life sentence. During his arraignment on Monday, the judge declared that Mr. Eaton will be held without bail at Northwest State Correctional Facility for now.
According to Mr. Murad, investigators suspect that Mr. Eaton relocated to Vermont during the summer, following his previous residence in or near Syracuse, New York. Mr. Eaton’s mother, Mary Reed, expressed her surprise at the situation to The Daily Beast.
Ms. Reed said on Monday that despite facing numerous challenges, Jason remains a compassionate and caring individual.
The Independent reached out to a representative from the Chittenden County Public Defender’s Office for a statement, but they declined to provide any comments on the matter.