Man arrested in shooting of US Palestinian students

A police statement said two of the victims were in stable condition, and the third suffered "much more serious injuries"

By AFP

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 27 Nov 2023, 6:53 PM

Police said Monday a man has been arrested in connection with the Burlington, Vermont shooting of three university students of Palestinian descent, as authorities investigated what they believe was a "hate-motivated crime".

Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said the suspect, 48-year-old Jason Eaton, was arrested on Sunday and was expected to appear before a judge Monday.

Evidence collected during a search of Eaton's apartment, outside of which the shooting took place on Saturday, as well as additional data collected "gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Mr Eaton perpetrated the shooting," Murad said in a statement.

Police had earlier described the shooter as "a white man with a handgun."

"Without speaking," police said, "he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot."

The incident occurred amid high tensions, and occasional violence, on college campuses and elsewhere in the United States over the Israel-Hamas war.

A police statement said two of the victims were in stable condition, and the third suffered "much more serious injuries." It said two are US citizens and one a legal resident.

While there has been no conclusion of the shooter's motive, the police confirmed that two of the young men were wearing keffiyehs, the traditional black and white Palestinian scarf.

"In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime," Murad said in a statement.

All three victims were graduates of the Ramallah Friends School, a private Quaker school in the West Bank, and are now attending different universities in the northeastern United States, according to a statement from a spokesman for the victims' families.

"As parents," it read, "we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot.... We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation. We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice."

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee said, "We have reason to believe this shooting occurred because the victims are Arab."

It called on Vermont authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.

The White House said Sunday that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting.

Bernie Sanders, the independent US senator from Vermont and a past presidential candidate, called the attack "shocking and deeply upsetting," adding, "Hate has no place here, or anywhere."

The shooting came as civil rights groups have warned of a rise in hate crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans — as well as growing anti-Semitism.

Last month, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death in Illinois and his mother was wounded. A 71-year-old suspect has pleaded not guilty.

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