Three students of Palestinian descent were shot and injured while attending a Thanksgiving holiday gathering near the University of Vermont on Saturday evening, according to police.
Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said the shooting occurred just before 6:30 p.m. Saturday and police are looking for the shooter.
Two of the men are in stable condition and the other suffered “much more serious injuries,” Murad said Sunday.
“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 American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) identified the three men as Hisham Awartani of Brown University, Kinnan Abdalhamid of Haverford College, and Tahseen Ahmed of Trinity College. The three men are all of Palestinian descent. Two are U.S. citizens and one is a legal resident.
The trio was visiting a home of one of the victim’s relatives and were walking when they were confronted by a white man with a handgun, police said. At the time, two of the men were wearing the black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves.
Murad said there is no additional information to suggest the suspect’s motive, but acknowledged the charged atmosphere against the backdrop of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
“My deepest condolences go out to the victims and their families,” Murad said in a news release. “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.”
FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH HATE CRIME AFTER CONFRONTATION WITH NYC FOOD CART VENDOR
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.”
The ADC said a man shouted and harassed the victims, who were conversing in Arabic, then proceeded to shoot them.
The FBI said it is aware of the shootings.
“If, in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate,” Sarah Ruane, an FBI spokesperson based in Albany, New York, said in a statement.
The White House said that President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting and will continue to receive updates as law enforcement gathers more information.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the shooting.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, denounced the attack, calling it “shocking and deeply upsetting.”
“Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation,” Sanders said in a statement. “My thoughts are with them and their families.”
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said he had been in communication with the family of one of the victims and the city’s Muslim community, “offering the city’s support and commitment to justice in this painful time.”
The University of Vermont said it was saddened by reports of the shooting.
“In this period of unrest in other regions of the world, we encourage you to pay close attention to the sources and authenticity of information you receive about this incident,” the university said in a statement to the community. “We ask you to do your part in helping to avoid speculation as the investigation progresses.”
Vermont Governor Phil Scott called the shooting a tragedy and wished for a speedy recovery.
“My thoughts are with them and their families. I have offered the State’s full support to the Mayor and Burlington Police Chief as this senseless crime is investigated and in support of the Palestinian and broader Burlington community. Our federal partners also stand ready to assist.”
Demonstrations have been widespread and tensions are escalating in the United States as the death toll rises in the Israel-Hamas war. A fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the militants freed more hostages in a third set of releases under a four-day cease-fire deal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read the full article here