US man charged in ‘hateful’ shooting of Palestinian students in Vermont

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

NEW YORK: An American man on Monday was charged with attempted murder in Vermont over the shooting of three men of Palestinian descent, in a crime authorities described as an act of hatred.

With the investigation in its early stages, Vermont state attorney Sarah George said there was not yet sufficient evidence to support a hate crime enhancement of the charges against the suspect, identified as Jason Eaton, 48.

But “I do want to be clear,” George told reporters in Burlington, the northeastern US city where the shooting occurred. “There is no question this was a hateful act.” The attack -- police said a gunman stepped off a front porch, “unprovoked,” and opened fire on the three college students as they walked together on a city block -- occurred during high tensions in the United States over the Israel-Hamas war.

College campuses and other locations have seen mounting threats and incidents of violence including acts of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The White House said President Joe Biden was “horrified” by the shooting of the three university students, who had gathered to observe the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

The attack also prompted anger and shock among several US lawmakers. Eaton was arrested on Sunday, and appeared before a judge in a Burlington court on Monday. NBC reported he pleaded not guilty to the shootings.

Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad described how law enforcement agents encountered Eaton when they knocked on his apartment door, and he responded by saying “I´ve been waiting for you.” When the agents asked why, Eaton said “I would like a lawyer,” according to Murad.

Authorities searched the premises and retrieved a weapon and ammunition that matched the shells recovered from the scene of the shooting, the police chief said. US Attorney General Merrick Garland warned on Monday of increasing threats from “domestic violent extremists” amid growing attacks against minority groups, as he vowed a full investigation into the shooting, including whether a hate crime was committed.