Police have arrested a suspect in the shooting of three young men of Palestinian descent who were attending a Thanksgiving holiday gathering near the University of Vermont campus Saturday evening.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Jason J. Eaton, 48, while conducting a search of the shooting area in Burlington at 3:38 p.m. Sunday, the Burlington Police Department said in a statement.
The families of three Palestinian students killed Saturday in the US state of Vermont called on police to investigate the attack as a hate crime. Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ahmed and Kinnan Abdalhamid were attacked and shot by a man near the University of Vermont campus, Burlington police said.
Officers are investigating a possible motive, but say the victims were wearing a keffiyeh – a traditional scarf – and speaking Arabic when they were attacked. The suspect was arrested.
Burlington police have named the suspect as 48-year-old Jason J Eaton, reports CBS News, the BBC’s US media partner.
Local police chief Jon Mura previously said two victims were in stable condition, while the third suffered more serious injuries. All three students attended Ramallah Friends School, a private, non-profit, Quaker-run school in Ramallah.
Abdalhamida is one of the students of Haverford College. The other two were named as Brown University students. Rich Price, the uncle of one of the victims, said the three men – all in their 20s – were visiting the eight-year-old at a birthday party.
“The last thing we imagined would be possible is that in our family’s neighborhood they would be walking down the street and this would happen to them. Less than five minutes after they left our home, we saw the sirens and lights of police cruisers pass our house. And we thought something was going on. I had no idea it was my nephew and his friends.”
Earlier, the families of the victims released a statement through the pro-Palestinian non-profit organization Middle East Understanding. The statement said: “We urge law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime. We will not rest until the attacker is brought to justice.”
After the shooting, the Council on American-Islamic Relations offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The attack comes as the US faces a rise in Islamophobic and anti-Semitic incidents, including violent attacks and online harassment.
Vermont senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders condemned the rise in violence. Writing on X, Sanders said, “It is shocking and deeply disturbing that three young Palestinians were killed here in Burlington, Vermont. Hate should have no place here or anywhere.”
Ambassador Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, posted a photo of the trio on social media and added: “Hate crimes against Palestinians must stop,” BBC writes.