Arrest made in shooting of 3 Palestinian men
Police have arrested a suspect in the shooting of three young men of Palestinian descent who were attending a Thanksgiving holiday gathering near the University of Vermont campus Saturday evening.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Jason J. Eaton, 48, while conducting a search of the shooting area in Burlington at 3:38 p.m. Sunday, the Burlington Police Department said in a statement.
Authorities collected evidence during a search of Eaton’s apartment in a building in front of the shooting location. He is scheduled to be arraigned today, police said. Online court records did not list an attorney who could speak on Eaton’s behalf.
The attack that injured the three men around 6:25 p.m. Saturday may have been a hate crime, authorities previously said.
Two of the men were in stable condition and the other suffered “much more serious injuries,” Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement Sunday. The three, all age 20, were walking during a visit to the home of one of the victim’s relatives when they were confronted by a white man with a handgun, police said.
“Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled,” Murad said. “All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities.”
The victims are all of Palestinian descent. Two are U.S. citizens and the third is in the country with legal permission. Two of the men were wearing the black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, Murad said.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is expected to join Murad at a press conference today to discuss the investigation.
Murad, who expressed sympathies for the victims and their families, said there is no additional information to suggest a motive.
“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime. And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven,” he said.
“The fact is that we don’t yet know as much as we want to right now,” Murad added. “But I urge the public to avoid making conclusions based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less.”
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee released a statement Sunday saying that the victims were Palestinian American college students and that there is “reason to believe this shooting occurred because the victims are Arab.”
A man shouted and harassed the victims, who were conversing in Arabic, then proceeded to shoot them, the committee’s statement said.
The FBI in Albany, New York, posted a statement late Sunday on X, formerly Twitter, saying the bureau is actively investigating the shooting with the Burlington Police Department, the ATF and other federal, state and local agencies.
The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting and would continue to receive law enforcement updates.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest or conviction of the person or people responsible for the shootings.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding posted a statement on X that the institute said was from the victims’ families.
“We are extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our children,” the statement said. “We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime. We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice.”