A suspect has been taken into custody by the police who is believed to have shot three Palestinian men during a Thanksgiving gathering near the University of Vermont, stated a report in The Associated Press. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detained 48-year-old Jason J Eaton during a search in Burlington.
Around 6:25 pm on Saturday, the three 20-year-old men were attacked by a white man who, after at least four handgun rounds, wounded them all without saying a word. Two of the men had stable injuries, according to Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad, while the other man had more serious wounds.
"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 on Sunday. He added, "Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled. All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities."
Among the victims were a legal resident and two US citizens who were all of Palestinian descent. Two of them wore classic Palestinian keffiyeh scarves in black and white.
To discuss the ongoing investigation, officials - including the mayor and police chief - are expected to hold a press conference. Despite the possibility that the crime was motivated by hate, Chief Murad advised caution, stressing the need for hard proof before making any judgements, the report added.
"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. He added, "The fact is that we don't yet know as much as we want to right now. But I urge the public to avoid making conclusions based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less."
According to the AP, organisations that voiced their concerns and offered rewards for information that led to the perpetrator's arrest included the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The incident is also being actively investigated by the FBI and other agencies.
A comprehensive investigation into the incident and unity were demanded by political figures such as Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Phil Scott, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who denounced the incident. Jewish Voice For Peace and the American Jewish Committee both denounced the assault and urged authorities to look into it as a potential hate crime, the report stated.
"No one should ever be targeted for their ethnicity or religious affiliation in our country. We will not let hatred win," the New York Democrat said in the statement posted on X.
Sen Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, said, "It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, VT. Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation."
Meanwhile, the Vermont-New Hampshire chapter of Jewish Voice For Peace said, "We are in solidarity with the students, their families and all those affected by this clear act of hate. We are in solidarity with all Palestinian people in occupied Palestine, around the world, and here in Vermont and we are committed to creating a Vermont that is safe and welcoming for all."
With agency inputs