Assault on Palestinian-Americans in Vermont: Suspect Pleads Not Guilty
In an unfortunate incident in Burlington, Vermont, a Palestinian-American, Kinnan Abdalhamid, 20, was shot while walking down a street with his friends, Hisham Awartani and Tahseen Aliahmad, both also 20 and of Palestinian descent. The incident occurred on Saturday, and the alleged assailant, Jason J Eaton, 48, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.
Abdalhamid reported that the attack took place around 6:30 PM as they were conversing in a mix of English and Arabic. The victims, wearing traditional Palestinian scarves called keffiyehs, were returning from a birthday party to their relative's home when they were targeted.
According to Abdalhamid's account to the police, an unknown man stared at them, approached with a handgun, and fired at close range without uttering a word. Following the shooting, Abdalhamid jumped a fence to escape, seeking shelter behind a nearby house for two minutes. He then sought help from a neighboring house after realizing he had been shot.
The two other victims were found on the pavement by the police and were treated at the scene. Currently, all three are recovering from their injuries in an intensive care unit at the hospital. Awartani, who suffered the most severe injuries, faces a challenging recovery after being shot in the spine.
Federal agents detained Eaton the day after the incident while canvassing the area. He resides in an apartment building opposite the shooting site. Upon arrest, Eaton, seemingly anticipating the authorities, expressed he had been waiting for them, requested a lawyer twice, and disclosed the presence of a weapon in his home. Authorities subsequently found and are examining a pistol at his residence.
During Eaton's court appearance via video link, he pleaded not guilty to the charges of attempted murder and is being held without bail. If convicted on the three felony counts, he could face life in prison. Although investigations are ongoing, State Attorney Sarah George emphasized that the act was undoubtedly hateful, and Chief Jon Murad stated that attacking random passers-by expresses some form of hate.
Relatives of the victims shared their perspectives on the incident, with Rich Price, Awartani's uncle, praising the resilience and good humor of the trio. Radi Tamimi, Abdalhamid's uncle, expressed a sense of betrayal, mentioning Abdalhamid's upbringing in the occupied West Bank.
The incident occurred amid a troubling surge in Islamophobic and antisemitic incidents in the U.S., coinciding with the Israel-Hamas conflict since October 7. Authorities continue to investigate the motive behind the attack, urging the public not to jump to conclusions.