The man accused of shooting three twenty-year-old Palestinian students in Burlington (Vermont) pleaded not guilty before a judge on Monday. The magistrate ordered that he remain in jail without bail until the trial for the shooting of the youth on Sunday. Two of the victims were shot in the torso and lower extremities and are in stable condition, but the third has “more serious injuries,” police said in a statement. Based on the medical report, the young man sustained a gunshot wound in the back and was unable to move. The shooter, a 48-year-old man identified as Jason J. Eaton, was arrested immediately after the shooting on Sunday in the area around where the events took place, very close to where he lives.
The Burlington Police Chief who led the investigation, Jon Murad, assured that “in this tense moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that this is a crime motivated by hate.” The attack comes amid increased tension and incidents of conflict in the Middle East and at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-Arab attacks in the United States are on the rise. For his part, the mayor of Burlington, Miro Weinberger, assured that the possibility that a hate crime was behind the shooting “is cooling,” and confirmed again that the investigation revolves around that method.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding has released the names of the injured students. Hisham Awartani (student at Brown University, Rhode Island), Kinnan Abdalhamid (student at Haverford College, Pennsylvania) and Tahseen Ahmad (Trinity College in Connecticut). Relatives of two of the young men are coming to the United States this week to meet with them and said in a statement that they are “deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of our children.” Right now the most important thing is “their full recovery and that they receive the medical support they need to survive.” “No family should experience this pain, our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and build their future.”
Two of the victims are American and the third injured legal resident of the United States, according to the lawyer of one of the families, the young people were attacked because two of them were wearing kufiyas, the traditional Palestinian scarves. “The suspect approached them and shot them. “He didn’t rob them, and he didn’t attack them either,” the lawyer for one of the families, Abed Ayoub, explained to CNN, “this was a targeted shooting and a crime.”
The events happened around 3:30 pm on Sunday, when the three students were visiting the grandmother of one of them in Burlington for the Thanksgiving celebration. The youths were walking and speaking in English and Arabic when the alleged shooter approached them and wordlessly “shot at least four bullets,” police explained in a statement, “and then fled on foot.” When the officers arrived at the scene after receiving the report of the shooting, they found two of the victims lying on the ground and injured, and the third student a few meters away. The three were then taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where they were treated by clinical teams.
Shortly after, Jason Eaton was arrested at his home where agents found evidence pointing to his responsibility.