A suspect has been arrested for shooting three Palestinian college students in Burlington, Vermont, in a case that has drawn national attention amid concerns about rising levels of hate crimes since war broke out between Israel and Hamas.
Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arrested Sunday afternoon near the scene of the attack, the Burlington Police Department said in a news release. Authorities said Eaton lives in an apartment building across the street from the shooting scene, and a search of his home uncovered evidence that gave investigators “probable cause to believe that Mr. Eaton carried out the shooting.”
Authorities had been investigating whether the shooting may have been a hate crime, authorities said. Police did not detail early Monday what charges the suspect faces. CNN has not been able to determine whether Eaton has an attorney.
Eaton is expected to be arraigned in court on Monday. Police also plan to hold a news conference Monday to discuss the case.
The students, all in their 20s, were walking down the street Saturday night when they were confronted by a man with a gun, who opened fire and shot each of them “without speaking” before fleeing, according to the police department. .
Two of the students were in stable condition over the weekend, but the third received “much more serious injuries,” police said, noting that two were shot in the torso and another in the lower extremities.
The students shot were identified as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmad, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut, according to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, which has provided statements on behalf of the victims’ families.
The victims’ families and several civil rights groups had urged investigators to carefully examine whether the shooting was a hate crime, as the attack came amid a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias incidents in the US. .U.S. since the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas flared up last month.
“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate crime,” Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad wrote in a previous news release.
A lawyer for the victims’ families, Abed Ayoub, said he believes the students were attacked, in part, because two of them were wearing keffiyehs (traditional Palestinian scarves).
“The suspect approached them and shot them. They weren’t robbed, they weren’t assaulted,” Ayoub said on “CNN Newsroom” Sunday before the arrest was announced. “It was a targeted shooting and a targeted crime.”
This is what we know so far.
The three students were in Burlington to visit Hisham. Awartani’s grandmother for the Thanksgiving holiday and were taking a walk before dinner when they were shot, according to Marwan Awartani, a former Palestinian education minister, who speaks on behalf of the victims’ families.
Investigators determined that the trio was walking on Prospect Street when they were confronted by the suspect, described as a white male, who was “on foot in the area,” police said.
“Without speaking, (the suspect) fired at least four bullets and is believed to have fled on foot,” police said in a statement.
ET, police officers responding to reports of a shooting found two of the victims wounded at the scene, police said. The third victim was found a short distance away.
The three men were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where they were still being treated Sunday, according to police.
Institute for Understanding the Middle East
Students (from left) Tahseen Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani took this photo shortly before they were shot, a family representative said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
CNN’s Dianne Gallagher, Joe Sutton, Zenebou Sylla, Eva McKend, Khalil Abdallah, Zoe Sottile and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.