Mother of Burlington Suspect: He Thinks 'World Is a Mess'

3 young men of Palestinian descent shot; alleged gunman is in custody in Vermont
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2023 10:25 AM CST
Updated Nov 27, 2023 12:03 PM CST
What We Know About the Burlington Shootings
A sign on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Was it a hate crime? The shooting of three 20-year-old men of Palestinian descent near the University of Vermont has raised the question in Burlington. Police have arrested 48-year-old Jason Eaton of Burlington, who's in custody on three counts of aggravated assault. Eaton pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Monday, reports the Hill. All three victims remain hospitalized, with two in stable condition and a third suffering what police say were "much more serious injuries." What's known about the Saturday shootings:

  • Victims: They are Hisham Awartani, who attends Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdalhamid, who attends Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmad, who goes to Trinity College in Connecticut, reports CNN. All three graduated from the Quaker-run Ramallah Friends School, a private institution in the West Bank, per the Burlington Free Press. The AP says two are US citizens and the third has legal permission to be in the country.

  • Shooting: It happened Saturday evening as the three men were outside the home of Awartani's grandmother, whom they were visiting for Thanksgiving. Police say the gunman approached them and opened fire without speaking before fleeing, according to the AP. Two of the victims were wearing black-and-white Palestinian kaffiyeh scarves, and an attorney for families of the victims tells CNN they were likely targeted because of the scarves. "They weren't robbed, they weren't mugged," says Abed Ayoub.
  • Suspect: Eaton lives in an apartment building in front of where the shooting took place, and he was arrested on Sunday. "Jason has had a lot of struggles in his life but he is such a kind and loving person," his mother, Mary Reed, tells the Daily Beast. "I am just shocked by the whole thing." She said her son appeared to be in good spirits at Thanksgiving and made no mention of the Israel-Hamas war. She said he is a "very religious person" who reads the Bible often. "He, like all of us, thinks the world is a mess."
  • Hate crime? Authorities are stopping short of definitively calling the assault a hate crime, at least for now. "In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime," said Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad. "I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it's proven." The FBI has confirmed it's investigating. Advocacy groups including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee already are labeling it as such, per VTDigger.
This file was updated with Eaton's plea of not guilty. (More Burlington, Vermont stories.)

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