Suspect arrested in Vermont shooting of 3 Palestinian college students, police say



CNN

A suspect has been arrested Three Palestinian college students shot dead Burlington, Vermont, has drawn national attention amid concerns about rising hate crimes since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

Jason J. Eden, 48, was arrested near the scene of the attack Sunday afternoon, the Burlington Police Department said in a news release. Authorities said Eaton lived in an apartment building across the street from the shooting scene, and a search of his home turned up evidence that gave investigators “probable cause to believe Mr. Eaton fired the shots.”

Authorities said they are investigating whether the shooting may have been a hate crime. Police did not elaborate early Monday on what charges the suspect faces. CNN could not determine if Eaton has an attorney.

Eaton is expected to appear in court on Monday. Police also plan to hold a press conference on 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 handgun who opened fire, shooting each of them “without speaking” before fleeing, according to the police department.

Two of the students were in stable condition over the weekend, but a third “suffered more serious injuries,” police said, with two shot in the torso and another in the lower extremities.

The students who were shot have been identified as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdelhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmad, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut, reported the Middle East Understanding Institute, which provided statements on behalf of the victims’ families.

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As the shooting took place in the middle of the attack, the victims’ families and several civil rights groups have urged investigators to carefully examine whether the shooting was a hate crime. A reported hike Incidents of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias in the US since the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas broke out last month.

“At the time of this allegation, no one could have seen this incident and suspected it was a hate crime,” Burlington Police Chief John Murat wrote in an earlier news release.

Abed Ayoub, a lawyer for the victims’ families, said he believed the students were targeted because two of them were wearing the keffiyeh – a traditional Palestinian scarf.

“The suspect walked up to them and shot them. They were not stolen, they were not kidnapped,” Ayoub said Sunday on “CNN Newsroom” before the arrest was announced. “It was a targeted shooting and a targeted crime.”

Here’s what we know so far.

All three students were in Burlington to meet Hisham Former Palestinian Education Minister Marwan Awartani said Awartani’s grandmother was walking before dinner for the Thanksgiving holiday when they were shot.

Investigators found the trio walking on Prospect Street when they encountered the suspect, described as a white male, who was “in the area on foot,” police said.

“Without speaking, (the suspect) discharged at least four rounds from the handgun and is believed to have fled on foot,” police said in a release.

Around 6:30 p.m. ET, police officers who responded to reports of a shooting found two people injured at the scene, police said. A third victim was found a short distance away.

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All three were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where they were being treated Sunday, police said.

Institute for Middle East Understanding

Students (from left) Tahseen Ahmad, Kinnan Abdelhamid and Hisham Awartani took the photo shortly before they were shot, a family representative said.

Before police announced the arrest of a suspect, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said investigators were considering whether the attack was motivated by hate.

“The indication that this shooting may have been motivated by hate is chilling, and this possibility is a priority in the investigation,” Weinberger said in a statement.

The FBI is working with local police to investigate and provide evidence, including computer and cell phone analysis, victim services and other forensic tools, to the agency’s field office in Albany, New York. said.

Police said ballistic evidence was recovered from the scene to be run through a federal database. Investigators worked to interview witnesses and canvass the neighborhood a second time.

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.

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