Updated Nov 27, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What we know about the shooting of 3 Palestinian students in Vermont

An undated photo of Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali and Kenan Abdulhamid, who were shot in Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday night.

From left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani, who were shot in Burlington, Vt., on Saturday night. Photo via CAIR

Police in Burlington, Vermont, are investigating whether a weekend shooting that left three college students of Palestinian descent injured was "hate-motivated."

The latest: Jason J. Eaton, 48, the suspect arrested in connection with the shooting that hospitalized the three 20-year-olds, pleaded not guilty on Monday to three counts of attempted murder.

  • Eaton faces a potential sentence of life in prison over the charges, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a press conference on Monday.
  • "While we are waiting for more facts, we know this: there is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America," President Biden said Monday.

The big picture: Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad were publicly identified by their families as being the shooting victims via a post on X from the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

  • Burlington Police said in a Sunday statement that two of the men were stable and "one has sustained much more serious injuries."
  • The FBI is among the federal agencies assisting in the investigation.

Details: Two of the victims are U.S. citizens and one is a legal resident, according to police.

  • Awartani is a Palestinian-Irish-American junior at Brown University and Abdalhamid is a junior at Haverford College. Both students remained hospitalized on Sunday, according to the colleges. Ahmad attends Trinity College, per the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
  • The three friends "may have been targeted because of their Arab ancestry and identity," Brown University president Christina Paxson said in a statement to the college's community shared with Axios Sunday evening in which she said Awartani was "expected to survive his injuries."
  • The Burlington Police Department said in an emailed statement early Monday that officers arrested Eaton following an operation on Sunday involving ATF agents.

Zoom in: Police said the suspect confronted them on Prospect Street and "discharged at least four rounds" from a pistol without speaking to them before fleeing on foot.

  • Two of those shot were wearing keffiyehs at the time of the assault, though police said there's "no additional information to suggest the suspect's motive" for the shooting.

Of note: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Sunday it would offer a $10,000 reward for "information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators" involved in the shooting.

What we're watching: Nikolas Kerest, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, in a Sunday night statement said the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Civil Rights Division "will assess the evidence generated to determine whether a federal crime may have been committed."

What they're saying: The victims' parents said in a statement they're "devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot in Burlington."

  • The families called on law enforcement to "conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime."
  • Awartani's mother, Elizabeth Price, told NBC News on Monday that her son was shot near his grandmother's house "in a street he's basically grown up on."
  • She added, "The short-term shock is now evolving into something more complex as he tries to frame who he is in the world and what it means to be safe in America."

Meanwhile, Abdalhamid's uncle, Radi Tamimi, said at a press conference Monday that the family feels "somehow betrayed" in their decision to have him stay in the U.S., where they thought he would be safer.

  • "Kinnan grew up in the West Bank and we always thought that that could be more of a risk in terms of his safety and sending him here would be, you know, the right decision," Tamimi said, adding "we're just trying to come to terms with everything."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout. It has been corrected to reflect Kinnan Abdalhamid is a student at Haverford College.

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