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Suspect in Vermont Shooting of Palestinians Pleads Not Guilty

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Law enforcement officers stand by police tape near a scene where three men of Palestinian descent were shot and injured, in Burlington, Vermont, Nov. 25, 2023, in this still frame from video provided by WCAX-TV. (WCAX-TV via AP)
Law enforcement officers stand by police tape near a scene where three men of Palestinian descent were shot and injured, in Burlington, Vermont, Nov. 25, 2023, in this still frame from video provided by WCAX-TV. (WCAX-TV via AP)

A man in the U.S. state of Vermont has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted second-degree murder in connection to the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent.

The suspect, 48-year-old Jason Eaton, appeared by video from the county jail at his arraignment hearing on Monday, which was held at the Chittenden County Court in Burlington.

Eaton spoke only to confirm his identity. His attorney entered pleas of not guilty, and the judge ordered Eaton to be held without bail, pending a hearing that is expected to take place within the next few days.

Police say Eaton shot the three men with a pistol near the University of Vermont on Saturday evening, then ran away.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting Vermont authorities in the investigation.

The shootings will also be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine if they amount to hate crimes, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The victims were reportedly speaking Arabic at the time, according to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, a nonprofit pro-Palestinian advocacy organization. Two of them were wearing a keffiyeh, a traditional black-and-white checkered scarf commonly worn in the Middle East, police said.

President Joe Biden released a statement saying he was "horrified," and that his administration "will provide any additional federal resources needed to assist in the investigation."

"While we are waiting for more facts, we know this: There is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. Period. No person should worry about being shot at while going about their daily lives," Biden said.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger joined Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad at a press conference in which Weinberger thanked Biden for the swift federal support the city has received for the investigation.

Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed, three college students of Palestinian descent who were shot near the University of Vermont in Burlington on Nov. 25, 2023 are seen in this undated handout photo.
Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed, three college students of Palestinian descent who were shot near the University of Vermont in Burlington on Nov. 25, 2023 are seen in this undated handout photo.

The victims have been Identified as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmed, who attends Trinity College in Connecticut. All of the victims are 20 years old.

They were all transported to the intensive care unit of a local hospital, where two of them were in stable condition, while the third faces "much more serious injuries," according to police.

President Joe Biden released a statement saying he was "horrified," and that his administration "will provide any additional federal resources needed to assist in the investigation."

"While we are waiting for more facts, we know this: There is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. Period. No person should worry about being shot at while going about their daily lives," Biden said.

Some information in this report was contributed by The Associated Press and Reuters.

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