The authorities have apprehended the gunman responsible for shooting and injuring three university students of Palestinian descent in the city of Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday evening.
The suspect was identified as 48-year-old Jason J. Eaton.
The shooting is being seen as a suspected “hate-motivated crime.”
Eaton lived in an apartment building near the site of the shooting.
He was detained around 3:30 pm (local time) on Sunday at the site of the attack, the Burlington Police Department said.
What do we know about the incident?
The incident took place on a street near the University of Vermont where the suspect, who was described as a “white man with a handgun,” without saying anything “discharged at least four rounds from the pistol” fled on foot, said the police.
But according to a pro-Palestinian NGO, the suspect was not silent.
The assailant opened fire after he began to shout at and harass the three men who were speaking Arabic, said the Institute for Middle East Understanding.
The police confirmed that two of the young men were wearing keffiyehs – the traditional black and white Palestinian scarf – when they were attacked.
The incident comes amid a rise in anti-Islamic and antisemitic incidents across the US since the beginning of the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.
“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, in a statement.
The local police chief said that they are already in touch with “federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners” to prepare for the next steps if the incident is proven to be a hate-motivated crime.
About the victims
The victims were identified by their families as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdel Hamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmed, who attends Trinity College in Connecticut.
All three were graduates of the Ramallah Friends School, a private Quaker school in the occupied West Bank and were now attending universities in northeast US.
Two of the students were visiting the home of the third student’s family in Burlington for Thanksgiving.
“Two are stable, while one has sustained much more serious injuries,” said the police speaking about their condition.
The victims’ families issued a joint statement urging the authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
“As parents we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot,” said the victims’ families. It added, “We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation.”
The advocacy group American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee also called for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime.
“The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent,” said ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub.
The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called the attack “shocking and deeply upsetting,” adding, “hate has no place here, or anywhere.”