Suspect in Vermont Shooting of 3 Palestinian College Students Pleads Not Guilty to Attempted Murder

(Daily News/TNS/Hamodia) — A suspect has been arrested and charged in the Saturday night shooting that wounded three college students of Palestinian descent near the University of Vermont, authorities said Monday.

Jason Eaton, 48, has been charged with three counts of attempted murder, said Sarah George, the Chittenden County state’s attorney. He entered a not-guilty plea for all three charges, according to the Burlington Free Press.

There was not immediately sufficient evidence to support a hate-crime charge, George said in a news conference. But she called the shooting a “hateful act.”

Eaton was arrested Sunday afternoon in his apartment building, which is located next to the site of the shooting, according to the Burlington Police Department. Police Chief Jon Murad said Eaton answered the door to his home with hands up, saying, “I have been waiting for you.”

The victims, three male 20-year-olds studying at private northeast universities, were hospitalized and are expected to survive. One was seriously wounded.

The students were wearing keffiyehs, scarves associated with Palestinian militancy, and speaking a mix of English and Arabic when a white assailant toting a pistol confronted them on a street in Burlington, according to the Burlington Police Department. Without uttering a word, the man unloaded four rounds before fleeing, the department said.

Shell casings from a .380 semiautomatic handgun turned up in the grass near the site of the shooting, according to the police department. Eaton acquired a .380 gun in recent months, Muran said.

The motive has not been established.

Eaton appears to have moved to Vermont from the Syracuse area in the summer, Muran said.

The incident played out with anxieties heightened in Muslim and Jewish communities as Israel prosecutes its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack in southern Israel.

Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city and the home of the state’s flagship university, described the shooting as “one of the most shocking and disturbing attacks” in his city’s history.

The victims were Hisham Awartani of Brown University; Kinnan Abdalhamid of Haverford University; and Tahseen Ahmed of Trinity College, according to the Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker school in the West Bank. All three students graduated from the Ramallah Friends School, the school said.

Two of the students are American citizens and one is a legal resident, according to the Burlington Police Department.

Awartani is of Palestinian and Irish descent and is a junior at Brown, the Rhode Island university said. The school planned a vigil for Monday afternoon.

Awartani’s spined was injured, and he faces a “long recovery,” said Richard Price, Awartani’s uncle. Price, of Burlington, was hosting the three students for Thanksgiving when the shooting took place.

“These three young men are incredible,” Price said in the news conference. “I’m blown away by their resilience — by their good humor in these difficult times.”

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