The police in Burlington, Vt., have arrested a suspect in the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent that the city’s mayor said was being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The suspect, identified by the police as Jason J. Eaton, 48, was expected to be arraigned Monday in connection with the shooting of the students, three men in their 20s who attend American universities. They were shot and wounded on Saturday by a white man with a handgun while they were walking near the University of Vermont, the police said. Two of the victims were wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs, a traditional headdress.
The young men told family members they were speaking a hybrid of English and Arabic before the man shot at them four times without saying anything before the attack, according to a family spokeswoman.
Two of the victims were in stable condition, the authorities said. The third sustained much more serious injuries.
In a statement after the arrest, the police said authorities had conducted a search of Mr. Eaton’s residence, adding that the shooting occurred in front of his apartment building.
No other details were available, but earlier on Sunday, the chief of the Burlington police, Jon Murad, said that, “In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime.”
Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington added in an earlier statement that the possibility that the shooting could have been motivated by hate was “chilling” and that the investigation was focusing on that.
It was unclear early Monday whether Mr. Eaton had legal representation. The Burlington police said earlier Sunday that other than the fact that the students are of Palestinian descent and that two of them were wearing a kaffiyeh, they had “no additional information to suggest the suspect’s motive.”
And Mr. Murad earlier had urged the public to avoid drawing conclusions.
The Burlington police did not release the names of the victims but said that two of them are American citizens and the third is a legal resident. The families of the men identified them in a statement as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed.
The Ramallah Friends School, a private school in the West Bank, said in a Facebook post that all three men had been students there. They are now juniors in college. Mr. Awartani studies at Brown University, Mr. Abdalhamid at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and Mr. Ahmed at Trinity College in Connecticut.
The three were walking to the house of Mr. Awartani’s grandmother for dinner, according to Marwan Awartani, a great-uncle and a former education minister of the Palestinian Authority. He said that the three took a picture together and sent it to Hisham’s parents minutes before they left for dinner.
Marwan Awartani added that the bullet that hit Hisham touched his spinal cord and that he lost feeling in the lower part of his body. He remained hospitalized on Sunday evening and was “expected to survive his injuries,” according to a statement from Christina H. Paxson, the president of Brown University.
Mr. Ahmed was shot in the chest, and Mr. Abdalhamid had minor injuries, according to a statement from the families of the victims.
The families urged authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
“Why would anyone shoot kids who were wearing Palestinian kaffiyeh?” Marwan Awartani said in an interview.
Nikolas P. Kerest, the U.S. attorney for the District of Vermont, said in a statement that his office would work with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to determine if the shooting constituted a federal crime.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that its offices have seen a huge rise in reports of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias since Oct. 7, the day that Hamas attacked Israel. The Anti-Defamation League said in late October that there also had been a considerable increase in reported cases of antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault compared with the year before.
“This has to stop,” Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom and a friend of the families, said in a phone call on Sunday, pointing to the 6-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed last month in Illinois in what authorities said was an anti-Muslim attack.
The federal government opened discrimination investigations this month at half a dozen universities following complaints about anti-Muslim and antisemitic harassment. The Biden administration opened the investigations as part of “efforts to take aggressive action to address the alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination.”
The White House said on Sunday that President Biden was briefed on the students and would continue to receive updates.
On X, the platform previously known as Twitter, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said it was “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.”
Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.“