In Burlington, Vermont, a case that has drawn national attention amid concerns about escalating hate crimes, a suspect has been arrested for the shooting of three Palestinian college students. Jason J. Eaton, 48, was apprehended Sunday afternoon near the location of the attack, as reported by the Burlington Police Department.
The incident occurs in a climate of heightened tension following the recent Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Investigation and Arrest
Eaton, who resides in an apartment building opposite the scene of the crime, became a suspect after a search of his home yielded evidence that led investigators to believe he was responsible for the shootings.
The specific charges Eaton faces have not been disclosed, but the police have described the case as involving three counts of aggravated assault. Eaton is set to be arraigned in court on Monday, with the police also planning a news conference to shed more light on the case.
As of now, it is unclear if Eaton has legal representation. Authorities had been probing the possibility that the shooting was a hate crime. The three victims, all 20 years old, were walking along a street on Saturday night when they were suddenly confronted and shot by a man with a handgun.
The assailant shot each student "without speaking" before fleeing the scene. Two of the students are in stable condition, while the third has suffered more serious injuries, with two shot in the torso and one in the lower extremities.
Three young Palestinian men, Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali and Kenan Abdulhamid, students at Brown and other US universities, were shot last night on their way to a family dinner in Burlington, USA. Their crime? Wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh.
Rising Concerns and Community Response
The shooting has intensified concerns about increasing anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment in the United States.
These fears have been exacerbated by the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. The victims' families and several civil rights groups have urged investigators to consider hate crime as a motive, especially given the charged atmosphere.
Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad acknowledged these concerns in a news release, stating, “In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime”.
Abed Ayoub, an attorney for the victims' families, emphasized the targeted nature of the attack on CNN. He noted that two of the students were wearing keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian scarves, at the time of the shooting.
“The suspect walked up to them and shot them. They weren’t robbed, they weren’t mugged,” Ayoub stated. “It was a targeted shooting and a targeted crime”.