Possible hate crime: 3 Palestinians shot in Vermont
The violent attack against three Palestinian-American college students in Vermont is being investigated as a potential hate crime. The victims, all 20 years old, were injured when a man, identified as 48-year-old Jason J. Eaton, shot them at close range in Burlington. Authorities believe the shooting might be linked to the recent threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities across the U.S.
According to Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad, the students had not provoked the attacker and were simply walking down the street when they were confronted. Two of the young men were wounded in their torsos, while the other suffered lower extremity injuries. As they recover at the University of Vermont Medical Center, their families and the Institute for Middle East Understanding have called for a thorough investigation of the incident and for the shooter to be brought to justice.
The victims, identified as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, were spending their Thanksgiving break in Burlington. They are all accomplished students, with Awartani studying mathematics and archaeology at Brown University, Abdalhamid pursuing a pre-med degree at Haverford College, and Ali Ahmad studying mathematics and IT at Trinity College.
The attacker, Jason J. Eaton, has a history of police reports, although the cases in which he was involved did not list him as a suspect. Despite no evidence yet to support a hate crime charge, law enforcement officials have recognized the attack as a hateful act. In response to the shooting, President Joe Biden expressed his horror and condemned the violence and hate in the country. “No person should worry about being shot at while going about their daily lives,” Biden stated.
The shooting comes amid increased tensions and violence in the U.S. following the Israel-Hamas war. Demonstrations have been widespread, and law enforcement officials are urging for unity and empathy across the nation. While Burlington has seen a surge in shootings this year, the recent attack is particularly alarming due to the distinct liberal and inclusive character of the city.
This incident serves as a reminder of the urgency to change the discourse surrounding the Palestinian community and to work towards a society where empathy, rights, and life are valued equally for all individuals.