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Vermont shooting updates: Palestinian victims’ families share message about suspect Jason Eaton

Jason Eaton is accused of shooting three Palestinian students in Vermont in a possible hate crime

Katie Hawkinson,Michelle Del Rey
Wednesday 29 November 2023 17:45 GMT
3 Palestinian students shot in Vermont

The families of three Palestinian students injured in a shooting near the University of Vermont have sent a message condemning certain media coverage of the suspect, Jason Eaton.

The three 20-year-olds – Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmad – were ambushed by a gunman as they walked to a family Thanksgiving in Burlington on Saturday night. The attack is being investigated as a hate crime.

Mr Eaton, 48, was arrested the next day near the scene of the attack. He pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder.

In the wake of his arrest, Mr Eaton’s mother alleged that he suffered from depression. In a statement on Tuesday, the families of the victims denounced media reports deflecting blame for the shooting on the suspect’s alleged mental health struggles.

“We do not accept what this wrongfully implies about people who struggle with their mental health, nor do we accept it as justification or context for this heinous, hate-driven crime,” they wrote.

Also on Tuesday, NBC News unearthed police reports in which Mr Eaton’s ex-girlfriend accused him of sending her “harassing” messages of a sexual nature in 2019.


Suspect arrested in Vermont shooting

Suspect Jason J Eaton, 48, was arrested on Sunday afternoon in connection with the shooting of three Palestinian students.

He is alleged to have ambushed the three University of Vermont students – Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmad – near campus in Burlington on Saturday night. The attack is being investigated as a hate crime.

The Burlington Police Department said in a press release that the suspected gunman lives in an apartment building near the scene of the shooting.

A search of his home uncovered evidence that gave law enforcement “probable cause” to believe Mr Eaton was behind the attack, police said.

It is not clear what charges the 48-year-old is facing but he is expected to appear in court for his arraignment on Monday.

The Independent’sRachel Sharp has more:

Suspect arrested in Vermont shooting of three Palestinian students

Jason J Eaton, 48, was arrested on Sunday afternoon close to the scene of the Burlington attack – which is being investigated as a possible hate crime

Megan Sheets27 November 2023 15:22

Jason J Eaton to face arraignment

Mr Eaton is expected to appear in court on Monday for his arraignment.

Police have yet to announce the specific charges he is facing following his arrest on Sunday afternoon.

The Independent will stream the arraignment live here.

Megan Sheets27 November 2023 15:30

Here’s what we know about the shooting

Officials have not yet released a motive for the shooting of three Palestinian men who were attacked in Burlington, Vermont on Saturday.

According to a press release distributed by the Burlington Police Department, the men, Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmad, all 20, were walking along Prospect Street around 6.30pm on Saturday when a man fired four shots in their direction.

They had been heading to Mr Awartani’s grandmother’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. Two of the students were wearing keffiyehs, a traditional headdress from the Middle East, at the time of the assault, a release states.

According to the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, the men were speaking to each other in English and Arabic.

Two men were shot in the torso, while one was shot in the lower extremities, police said. Two of the men are in stable condition, while one suffered serious injuries, police said. Authorities did not provide further information regarding the students’ conditions.

Officials believe the shooter to be 48-year-old Jason Eaton.

Mr Eaton was arrested on Sunday around 3.38pm after he was located and detained by authorities. His residence is located in front of where the incident took place, officials said.

He’s currently being held at Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton. Officials have denied Mr Eaton bail. He’s facing three charges of second-degree attempted murder, to which he pleaded not guilty on Monday during an arraignment.

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 16:26

US Attorney General Merrick B Garland says DOJ ‘poised’ to ‘assist’ in shooting investigation

Speaking at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, US Attorney General Merrick B Garland said FBI and ATF investigators are working to determine if the shooting was a hate crime.

“There is understandable fear in communities across the country,” Mr Garland said.

“Investigative updates by law enforcement officials in Vermont will be coming soon. The Justice Department is poised to provide any assistance that our state and local law enforcement partners need as we work together to protect our communities.”

Law enforcement officials in Vermont are set to hold a press conference at 12pm ET to give an update about the investigation into the shooting.

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 16:47

Officials to give update on shooting during press conference

Law enforcement officials are expected to provide an update on the shooting at 12pm on Monday during a press conference being held at Burlington City Hall.

Mayor Miro Weinberger, Chief of Police Jon Murad, Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George, and United States Attorney for the District of Vermont Nikolas Kerest are scheduled to attend, as are representatives of the victims’ families, and others, a press release distributed by the Burlington Police Department states.

The event is set to be livestreamed here.

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 16:53

One shooting victim expected to be released from hospital today

One of the three Palestinian students shot in Burlington, Vermont on Saturday in a potential hate crime is expected to be released from the hospital, The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee announced in a statment posted to X, also known as Twitter on Monday.

Two of the students will stay in the hospital, the organisation said. One remains seriously injured, while another is critically injured. The organisation did not say which student is suffering from what injuries.

“ADC is working closely with the students and their families, including working tirelessly to ensure that they are reunited,” the organisation said. “We are calling on law enforcement in Vermont to additionally prosecute this shooting as a hate crime. ADC has reached out to the DOJ and the FBI to also call on an immediate hate crimes investigation.”

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 17:12

President Joe Biden has been briefed on shooting

During a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden has been informed about the incident and is wishing the men a “full recovery”.

“The President and the First Lady were horrified to learn about the three college students of Palestinian descent, two of whom are American citizens who were shot Saturday in Burlington, Vermont,” Ms Jean-Pierre said.

“The President continues to receive updates from his team about the ongoing investigation. These students were taking part in a uniquely American tradition, gathering with family and loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving. They should be back in school with their classmates not in a hospital room,” she coninued.

“The President First Lady and everyone here at the White House, join Americans across the country in praying for their full recovery and we send our deepest condolences to their families and the broader Palestinian Arab and Muslim American communities.

“While we are waiting for more facts, we know this there is absolutely absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. No person should worry about being targeted while going about their daily lives and far too many Americans know a family member injured or killed as a result of gun violence. We cannot and we will not accept that.”

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 19:09

Mother of suspected shooter said he has history of mental illness

According to The Daily Beast, Mary Reed, the mother of Jason Eaton, the suspect in the shooting, said her son had previously struggled with depression and other mental health issues.

The family celebrated Thanksgiving just days prior to the incident, she said.

“It was the best Thanksgiving we had in years,” the woman told the outlet. “We were all together.”

Ms Reed described her son as a “kind and loving person”. Still, “Jason has had a lot of struggles in his life,” she said.

“I am just shocked by the whole thing.”

She said her son had not mentioned the war between Israel and Hamas during their recent interaction. She said he was “totally normal” during the meal and “in such a good mood”.

Ms Reed only learned of the shooting Monday morning, when her daughter came over to wake her up, she told the outlet.

“I just don’t understand,” she said. “I can’t believe he would do something like this.”

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 20:30

Mother of student says ‘it’s unlikely he’ll be able to use his legs again'

Elizabeth Price, the mother of Hisham Awartani, 20, told NPR that doctors believe it’s unlikely that her son may be able to walk following the shooting.

“He’s confronting a life of disability, a potentially irreversible change to his life and what it means for his future,” she told the outlet.

Her son is currently attending Brown University, where he is studying mathematics and archaeology. He recently graduated from a Quaker-run K-12 school in the West Bank called Ramallah Friends School.

Ms Price, who lives in the West Bank with her husband, Marwan Awartani, said the couple is struggling to get out of the territory and into the US. They plan to cross by land into Jordan before taking a flight to the US, the outlet reported.

The students have been friends ever since childhood, she said.

“These are boys who grew up in my house, I consider all three of them my children,” Price says. “I am so glad I’m going to see them and care for them.”

The students were staying with the woman’s brother, Rich Price, at his home in Vermont for Thanksgiving.

The mother told the outlet that her and her husband decided to keep her son in Burlington over the holidays rather than have him travel back to the West Bank given the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

“My husband didn’t want Hisham to come back for Christmas,” she told the outlet. “He thought our son would be safer [in the U.S.] than in Palestine.”

Now, she said, “My husband is so bitter”.

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 22:18

Haverford College president comments on shooting

Wendy Raymond, the president of Haverford College, released a statement regarding the shooting on Monday, announcing that the university would be taking measures to support students and staff following the incident, including implementing Islamic grief counseling, a candlelight vigil and additional psychological services.

Kinnan Abdalhamid, a junior at the university, was wounded in the shooting.

“This attack has the power to terrify because it shows how vulnerable we are, in so many ways,” Ms Raymond said. “Together, we will walk in and through it”.

In October, while speaking to the Haverford Clerk, the university’s student newspaper, Mr Abdalhamid, criticised the president’s response to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, stating that she did not mention the Palestinians killed by Israel in her early comments immediately after the fighting began that month.

“She did not mourn the Palestinian citizens who were killed, or the children who were killed by this ruthless bombing,” Mr Abdalhamid said.

The newspaper said the student had lived under Israeli military occupation from when he was three until he began studying at the university.

“I don’t expect much from Western media or the college to mention much about Israel’s oppression and apartheid,” said Mr Abdalhamid, “But I at least expect the thousands who were killed to be mentioned and mourned.”

Michelle Del Rey27 November 2023 23:01

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