On November 25, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. three Palestinian college students were shot near the University of Vermont Campus. Two of the three students were wearing Keffiyehs, a traditional Palestinian scarf, and were reported to be having a conversation in English and Arabic. The suspect approached the students on the street and immediately opened fire without saying a word. They were not robbed or mugged.
The victims are Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmed, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut. Although their wounds have varying degrees of severity, all three students are expected to survive. Awartani has an incomplete spinal injury; He is paralyzed from the chest down but still has feeling in the paralyzed areas.
On November 26, 48-year-old Jason J. Eaton was arrested and charged with three counts of attempted murder; he pleaded not guilty. When arrested, Murad noted, “He was affectless in his response in a way that was certainly notable to detectives.” However, he has not spoken to the police and his lawyer has provided minimal commentary.
According to the police chief Jon Murad, there is not enough evidence to officially charge the incident as a hate crime. However, prosecutor State Attorney Sarah George, “Although we do not yet have evidence to support a hate crime enhancement, I do want to be clear that there is no question, this was a hateful act.”
On the night of the shooting, students of the University received an automated message and text that stated, “Shooting on N Prospect St. in Burlington,” with no additional information. The lack of communication caused unrest and confusion among students.
“The initial phone call sharing the shooting near campus was shocking, especially combined with the lackluster and bare text message that accompanied it containing little to no information regarding if the shooter is still out and about in the Burlington area,” noted one UVM student. “Half of our student body lives on campus, and many students are housed on the street where the shooting took place. I do not believe the school handled this adequately.”
The morning after, the school released a statement that emphasized there was no direct correlation to the UVM community with the shooting but offered their condolences. The school has since offered increased counseling services to students and urged students to remain conscientious about their sources regarding the incident.
According to the same UVM student, the University administration will take down posters in reference to the Israel/Hamas conflict and has made little reference to the conflict since October.
Regardless, student groups have remained vocal and taken action. UVM’s Students for Justice in Palestine and the Union of Students organized a “die-in” on November 29th to stand in solidarity with Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian students – believing their school has not offered enough support.
First-year Lily Andrey is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.