Three Palestinian college students were shot while walking in Vermont, leaving one in critical condition. Hisham Awartani, a 20-year-old Brown University student, may not be able to move his legs for the rest of his life after a bullet struck his spine, as detailed by his family. His mother, Elizabeth Price, described the moments leading up to the attack, stating, “He’s just a very resilient young man and he’s been trying to keep everyone’s spirits up by joking around and trying to be as calm as possible.”
The suspect, Jason J. Eaton, is accused of confronting and shooting the students as they walked in front of his apartment building. Two of the men were wearing traditional Palestinian headscarves at the time of the attack. Eaton, 48, has been arrested and charged with three counts of attempted murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. Authorities are investigating whether the incident was motivated by hate.
The family representatives of the two other victims, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, who were also shot, have asked investigators to treat the case as a hate crime. The families expressed their belief that “our children were violently attacked simply for being Palestinian.”
The victims were visiting Burlington for the Thanksgiving holiday and had attended a birthday party before they were attacked. The uncle of one of the victims described the incident, stating, “They were just walking, talking to each other… and this gentleman came out of the darkness, pulled out a gun, and fired four times.”
Despite Awartani’s life-changing injury, his mother stated, “His spirit is high,” and she is determined to travel to the United States to be by her son’s side as he undergoes treatment. The University students were hospitalized in the ICU, and one victim has already been released from the hospital.
The victims’ families have emphasized the need for a full investigation and accountability, expressing their hopes that “full justice and accountability are important and necessary to ensure that this type of brutal and violent attack does not happen again.”
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Laura Coates, Rob Frehse, Polo Sandoval, Celina Tebor, Laura Dolan and Mark Morales contributed to this report.