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Suspect arrested in connection to Vermont shooting of Palestinian students

BURLINGTON, Vt. (NewsNation) — Police arrested a man Sunday night in connection to the shooting of three Palestinian college students in Burlington over the weekend.

The suspect, 48-year-old Jason Eaton, was taken into custody near the shooting scene and is expected to be arraigned in court on Monday. Eaton is being held without bail at Northwest State Correctional Facility (NWSCF).

Investigators said that a search of Eaton’s home gave prosecutors “probable cause” to believe Eaton “perpetrated the shooting.”

The three 20-year-old victims, Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College; and Tahseen Ahmed, a student at Trinity College, were walking in Burlington Saturday when a white man walked up to them and opened fire without speaking. The suspect then fled the scene, police say.

At the time of the attack, two of the victims were wearing keffiyehs, a symbol of Palestinian identity and resistance, and speaking in Arabic.

Two of the three victims are in stable condition, but the third victim suffered serious injuries. All three of them are Palestinian college students who were visiting one of their homes for Thanksgiving break.

Burlington police have not yet labeled the shooting a hate crime. Still, they are looking into the possibility as they investigate, saying, “In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime.”

The FBI is helping local authorities with the case as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urged federal investigators to look into the shooting as a hate crime.

The White House said the president was briefed on the attack.

Family members of the victims released a joint statement, saying they are “devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot,” adding, “No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders offered his condolences to the families of the victims, calling the attack shocking and deeply upsetting.

Brown University, where one of the victims attends, will hold a vigil Monday.

Authorities plan to hold a news conference Monday morning to provide an update on the case.

Advocacy organizations have reported an increase in Islamaphobia since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants attacked Israel and killed more than 1,200 people. Israel declared war quickly after the attacks, laying siege to Gaza and relentlessly pounding the area with airstrikes. More than 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, according to the Health Ministry.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said from Oct. 7 to Nov. 4, it received a total of 1,283 requests for help and reports of bias — a 216% increase over last year. On Oct. 15, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death by an Illinois man. Police say the boy was targeted because of his Muslim faith.

There has also been a rise in antisemitic incidents as well: In New York City alone, the police said there was a 214% increase in hate crimes against Jewish people in October 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

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