Vermont man pleads not guilty after arrest in shooting of 3 Palestinian-American students amid hate crime investigation News
AlexiusHoratius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Vermont man pleads not guilty after arrest in shooting of 3 Palestinian-American students amid hate crime investigation

The suspect in the Burlington, Vermont shooting that left three Palestinian-American men wounded pleaded not guilty after he was arrested early Monday morning by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  The shooting occurred at 6:25 p.m. Saturday near the University of Vermont. The Burlington Police Department released a statement Sunday identifying Jason Eaton as the suspect, saying that evidence collected  gave detectives and prosecutors “probable cause to believe that Mr. Eaton perpetrated the shooting.”

The three victims, all 20 years old, were identified as “Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University, Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College, and Tahseen Ahmed, a student at Trinity College,” who were visiting their homes for Thanksgiving break.  Police stated Sunday that two of the men were in stable condition, while one has sustained more serious injuries.

While no motive has yet been conclusively found, a hate crime investigation is underway given that the three students were wearing the keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian identity. Crimes motivated by a victim’s national origin are subject to Vermont’s hate crimes statute.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding issued a statement on behalf of the students’ families stating, “We are extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our children.  We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime.”

On Tuesday, Hisham Awartani issued a statement on Instagram that he was but “one casualty in this much wider conflict.”  The shot has left him paralyzed from the waist down as it is too dangerous to surgically remove.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) issued a statement on X stating, “It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington VT.  Hate has no place here, or anywhere.  I look forward to a full investigation.  My thoughts are with them and their families.” Muslim and Arab advocacy groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Affairs and Islamic Affairs and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee also put out statements in support of the Palestinian-American students.

Hate crimes have been on the rise in the US and around the world after the ongoing war in Gaza since October 7.