Vermont shooting suspect charged, officials decry "hateful act"

Burlington, Vermont - On Monday a man was charged with attempted murder over the shooting of three men of Palestinian descent in a crime that authorities described as an act of hatred.

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 48-year-old Jason Eaton (pictured.)
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 48-year-old Jason Eaton (pictured.)  © Screenshot/X/@Yashar Ali

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 48-year-old Jason Eaton.

"I do want to be clear," George told reporters in Burlington. "There is no question this was a hateful act."

Police said the gunman stepped off a front porch and – "unprovoked" – opened fire on the three college students as they walked together Saturday on a city block.

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All three victims were graduates of the Ramallah Friends School, a private Quaker school in the West Bank, and are now attending different universities in the northeastern United States. Two of the young men were wearing keffiyehs, the traditional black and white Palestinian scarf.

The attack comes during heightened 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 antisemitism.

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Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad (pictured) described how law enforcement agents encountered Eaton when they knocked on his apartment door.
Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad (pictured) described how law enforcement agents encountered Eaton when they knocked on his apartment door.  © Screenshot/X/@nowthisnews

President Joe Biden said he was "horrified" by the shooting of the students, who had gathered to observe the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

"There is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. Period," Biden said in a statement.

Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad described how law enforcement agents encountered Eaton when they knocked on his apartment door. The suspect allegedly answered the door and said, "I've been waiting for you."

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When the agents asked why, Eaton simply said that he would like a lawyer.

Authorities then searched the premises and retrieved a weapon and ammunition that matched the shells recovered from the scene of the shooting.

Eaton was arrested Sunday and appeared before a judge in a Burlington court on Monday. NBC reported that he pleaded not guilty to the shootings.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland warned Monday of increasing threats from "domestic violent extremists" amid growing attacks against minority groups. Garland vowed a full investigation into the shooting.

Cover photo: Screenshot/X/@Yashar Ali

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