WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (APP): US President Joe Biden, denouncing the shooting rampage that claimed the lives of three university students of Palestinian descent in the state of Vermont, said Monday that he and the first lady were “horrified” over the incident.
“The president and the first lady were horrified,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement released by the White House.”These students were taking part in a uniquely American tradition, gathering with family and loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving.”
The victims — Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ahmad — “should be back in school with their classmates, not in a hospital room,” the spokesperson said.
“While we are waiting for more facts, we know this — there is absolutely absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. No person should worry about being targeted while going about their daily lives,” she said.
The students, all of whom are 20 years old, were shot Saturday evening while walking in the city of Burlington, Vermont. Awartani is a student at Brown University, Abdalhamid is a student at Haverford College, and Ahmad is a student at Trinity College.
The men were in town to take part in a Thanksgiving celebration hosted by Awartani’s family. Two of the students are US citizens, while the third is reportedly a permanent resident.
Police identified the suspected shooter as Jason Eaton, 48, who was taken into custody Sunday afternoon. He has been charged with three counts of attempted murder, each of which carries the possibility of a life prison sentence. Eaton has reportedly pleaded not guilty.
Authorities said they recovered a .380 caliber handgun from Eaton’s apartment, as well as ammunition.
A search of Eaton’s apartment produced evidence that “gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Eaton perpetrated the shooting,” authorities said. Federal agents assisted in the investigation.
The students were speaking Arabic, and were wearing keffiyehs when they were shot, according to Abed Ayoub, the executive director of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee.
One of the victims, who has not been publicly identified, is likely to have long-term injuries resulting from the attack.
“Three young men have been the victims of an unprovoked and terrible crime and their lives have been changed forever. One in particular faces a tremendous struggle and recovery with injuries that may be lifelong,” Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said during a press conference in Vermont.
The victims’ families have asked authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
Sarah George, the Chittenden County State’s Attorney in Burlington, said that investigators have yet to uncover evidence to corroborate hate crimes charges, but added that “there is no question this was a hateful act.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also called on state and federal law enforcement authorities in Vermont to investigate a possible bias motive for the shooting.
“Due to the unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate and violence we have witnessed in recent weeks, local, state and national law enforcement authorities must investigate a possible bias motive for the shooting of these three young men,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement.
“We hope our reward (of $10,000) will result in information leading to an arrest in this case.”