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EXCLUSIVE: Latest Burlington shooting sparks condemnation and frustration over escalated violence

By Michael Bielawski

The shooting of three Palestinian college students near North Prospect Street in Burlington on Saturday is sparking more social media frustration over escalated gun violence which the police chief notes was rarely seen just years ago.

Within 24 hours of the incident, an arrest was made. Detectives worked with the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont and Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George to obtain a search warrant for the apartment building of Jason J. Eaton, 48, which is where the shooting took place. A police report on Monday offered more updates.

“A judge granted the search warrant and officers executed it at [about 10 PM on Sunday]. Evidence collected during that search warrant, and additional evidence developed during the course of this investigation, gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Mr. Eaton perpetrated the shooting. He has been  arrested and is expected to be arraigned on Monday, November 27, 2023.”

A police report by offered some more background on the victims. They were together for Thanksgiving celebrations.

“They grew up in the occupied West Bank under military control… they just couldn't imagine this could happen in a place like Vermont," said [Rich Price, an uncle to one of the victims], who was hosting his nephew and his two friends for the Thanksgiving weekend, which also included an 8th birthday party on Saturday for Price's twin boys. When the group returned home from the party, the three college students went for a walk around the neighborhood.”

The three students have been identified as Hisham Awartani from Brown University in Rhode Island, Kinnan Abdalhamid from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and Tahseen Ahmad of Trinity College in Connecticut.

Authorities’ response

The governor has already put out a statement in response to these shootings. He urged Vermonters to de-escalate the tensions over the Middle East conflict.

“I urge Vermonters to unite to help the community heal, and not let this incident incite more hate or divisiveness,” he wrote. “We must come together in these difficult times – it is the only way to put a stop to the violence we’re seeing.”

Burlington’s mayor Miro Weinberger also did a press conference on Monday afternoon. He praised that law enforcement was able to track down and arrest Eaton within just 24 hours of the shooting. Eaton is currently facing three counts of attempted murder.

“The investigation will continue as well as our collaboration with our state and federal partners, to give our prosecutors the strongest case possible, and to ensure that Mr. Eaton is held fully accountable for his actions,” he said.

Police Chief Jon Murad also spoke about how shootings in the Queen City have become much more common.

“Unfortunately we have become much too good at this in this city,” he said. “We have gone from a city that routinely saw two gun-fire incidents a year to a city that saw 26 last year and I believe this was number 16 or 15 of this year."

Online comments

Already online commentators are calling it a hate crime. @rlmslgl stated, “I am so [very] tired of people saying Vermont is some progressive haven and a liberal paradise. VT is not immune to hate, and we have serious issues. The first step to addressing these issues is by tackling the system and mindset that has led things like this to happen.” he wrote.

A response from the family members was posted. They also said that this should be considered a hate crime.

“We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime,” the letter states. “We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice. We need to ensure that our children are protected, and this heinous crime is not repeated.”

@maltman613 said he’s sympathetic to Israel and he condemns this attack.

“I am pro-Israel and anti-Hamas. I unreservedly condemn this shooting. If it was a hate crime it is contemptable and inexcusable. It should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he wrote.

@karen_paul suggested that she is confident that the police will complete the investigation.

“I have full faith and confidence in the Burlington Police Department to investigate this violent act to the fullest extent, including evidence of a hate crime, and bring swift justice to those responsible,” she wrote.

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle


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