Suspect, 48, is arrested in shooting of three Vermont Palestinians

Vermont shooting suspect Jason J. Eaton, 48, is arrested in attack on Palestinian students Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel hamid and Tahseen Ahmed – as cops launch hate crime investigation

  • Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arrested by officers in Vermont on Sunday afternoon
  • He was detained at a house near the site where Palestinian students were shot
  • Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed were the victims

A suspect has been arrested over the shooting of three Palestinian college students in Vermont – as the life of one hangs in the balance.

Jason J. Eaton, 48, was seized on Sunday afternoon near the site of Saturday’s attack and is expected to appear in court on Monday, Burlington Police revealed.

They said he lives in an apartment building near where Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel hamid and Tahseen Ahmed were shot while returning home from a Thanksgiving dinner at Awartani’s grandmother’s house.

Two of the men, all aged 20, were wearing keffiyeh scarves and each was speaking a mixture of English and Arabic when the suspect approached them.

‘On Sunday afternoon ATF agents who were conducting a canvass at the location of the shooting encountered and detained Jason J Eaton,’ Burlington Police said.

Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed wearing keffiyeh scarves and speaking Arabic when they were shot on Saturday night

First responders loading one of the victims into an ambulance after Saturday’s shooting 

‘Detectives completed a search warrant for Mr Easton’s residence in the apartment building in front of which the shooting took place.

‘Evidence collected during that search warrant and additional evidence developed during the course of this investigation gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Mr Eaton perpetrated the shooting.’  

In an earlier statement police said the three students had been walking on Prospect Street ‘when they were confronted by a white male with a handgun’. 

‘The suspect was on foot in the area. Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot,’ Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad explained.

‘In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime,’ he added.

I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven.’

Abdel Hamid who is a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania suffered minor injuries in the attack.

But Awartani was shot near the spine and has lost feeling in his legs, according to his great-uncle Marwan Awartani, a former education minister of the Palestinian Authority.

Ahmed, meanwhile, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut, was shot in the chest and his condition is ‘touch and go’ according to Abed A. Ayoub, the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

‘They were doing what millions of other students were doing this weekend: getting away for the holiday and reconnecting with friends and family,’ Ayoub added.

‘Given the information collected and provided, it is clear that the hate was a motivating factor in this shooting.

‘We call on law enforcement to investigate it as such. The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent.’ 

Hisham Awartani shared a hospital bed photo on Instagram

Armed officers approached a nearby house as the injured men were taken to hospital

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it had seen a trebling of in reports of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias incidents in the month after the Hamas attack which killed more than 1,200 people on October 7.

Chicago landlord Joseph M. Czuba, 71, yelled ‘you Muslims must die’ before fatally stabbing six-year-old Palestinian-American boy Wadea Al-Fayoume and wounding his 32-year-old mother on October 8.

In a joint statement, the family of the three 20-year-olds said: ‘As parents, we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot.

‘We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice. We need to ensure that our children are protected, and this heinous crime is not repeated.’

Murad said two of the shot men were found in one location and treated at the scene by the Burlington Fire Department before being taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center. The third victim was found a short distance away and taken to the hospital.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter.

‘Due to the unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate and violence we have witnessed in recent weeks, local, state and national law enforcement authorities must investigate a possible bias motive for the shooting of these three young men,’ its executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said law enforcement would ‘work relentlessly to bring the shooter to justice’.

‘We will do everything in our power to find the perpetrator and hold them fully accountable,’ he added. 

‘That there is an indication this shooting could have been motivated by hate is chilling.’

When officers arrived on the scene, they found the three victims with gunshot wounds

Two of the victims are in stable condition while the third has sustained more serious injuries

The statement released last night by Burlington Police announcing the Eaton’s arrest

The group’s alma mater Ramallah Friends School in the occupied West Bank confirmed in a Facebook statement that all three had been students there.

‘Haverford junior Kinnan Abdel Hamid, is recovering from a gunshot wound in a hospital in Burlington, VT, after he and two of his lifelong friends were shot near the University of Vermont by an unknown assailant,’ said a Haverford University spokesman.

‘Police are investigating the shootings, and we await word on whether it will be pursued as a hate crime.’ 

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Tweeted that it was ‘deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, Vermont. 

‘Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation.’

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