Vermont Suspect's Ex Called Cops, Got His Gun Confiscated

Police in Syracuse, New York, removed Jason Eaton's firearm from home after complaint
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2023 1:30 AM CST
Updated Nov 30, 2023 10:00 AM CST
Vermont Suspect's Ex Told Police He Harassed Her
People gather in Pliny Park in Brattleboro, Vt., for a vigil, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, for the three Palestinian-American students who were shot while walking near the University of Vermont campus in Burlington, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 25.   (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)
UPDATE Nov 30, 2023 10:00 AM CST

More details emerged this week about the man accused of shooting three young Palestinian men near the University of Vermont campus over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including a report of a relationship gone bad between Jason Eaton and an ex-girlfriend. Now, NBC News adds to that, reporting that Eaton had a firearm confiscated by cops in Syracuse, New York, in 2013 after another ex complained of domestic disputes and wanted the gun taken out of her home after she and Eaton had broken up. No criminal charges were filed in that case; the then-37-year-old woman told police at the time that Eaton had a history of mental illness. NBC notes that Eaton was named in more than three dozen police reports near Syracuse between 2007 and 2011, though most were for minor incidents such as a landlord dispute, Eaton's car being broken into, and a car accident.

Nov 29, 2023 1:30 AM CST

The latest detail to come out about the man who allegedly shot three young Palestinian men as they walked near the University of Vermont over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has to do with his ex-girlfriend. In 2019, the then-36-year-old woman reported to police that Jason Eaton had been harassing her with text messages, phone calls, and emails after she made it clear she wanted no further contact with him, NBC News reports. She said the messages "were sexual in nature but not threatening." Police say the couple had had previous domestic disputes as well. The unnamed woman called the cops after seeing Eaton driving by her home, she said; police ultimately found him there, stopped him, and made it clear he needed to stop contacting the woman, who decided against pressing charges.

The Daily Beast has more on Eaton's background, and reports that he once worked as a research assistant at Harvard University's Harvard Forest, and also taught children in the past at outdoor schools. Business Insider spoke to a former boss of Eaton's and reports that the suspect was once part of a "tight-knit, progressive" upstate New York organic farming community and was known as a "hippie"; his former boss says he was shocked to hear Eaton was the suspect. But both outlets note social media linked to Eaton appears to show a recent turn toward extremism. When ATF agents arrived to arrest him the day after the shooting, Eaton reportedly told them, "I've been waiting for you," CBS News reports.

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Meanwhile, the most seriously injured of the three students shot released a statement that was read at a vigil. "It's important to recognize that this is part of a larger story," Hisham Awartani said, per ABC News. "This hideous crime did not happen in a vacuum. As much as I appreciate every single one of you here today, I am one casualty in this much wider conflict. Had I been shot in the West Bank, where I grew up, the medical services that saved my life here would likely have been withheld by the Israeli army. The soldier who shot me would go home and never be convicted. I understand that the pain is so much more real and immediate because many of you know me, but any attack like this is horrific, be it here or in Palestine." (More Vermont stories.)

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