Three 20-year-old Palestinian men were shot on Saturday night in Burlington, Vermont, in what is suspected to be a possible hate crime.
Burlington police said the three men were in town to celebrate Thanksgiving with one of the man’s relatives. A white man approached them on the street and fired four rounds, then fled on foot. Police are unsure of the suspect’s motive. All three men were transported to a local hospital, where two went to the ICU. One of the three men is reportedly in the stable condition now, according to NBC News.
Police arrested a suspect, identified as 48-year-old Jason Eaton, on Sunday afternoon.
He is expected to be arraigned on Monday.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday morning and said they have “reason to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three victims being Arab” because they were “wearing a Kuffiyeh and speaking Arabic.” Police said the victims did not want their names to be shared.
“Violence of any kind against any person in our community is totally unacceptable and we will do everything in our power to find the perpetrator and hold them fully accountable,” Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a news release.
“That there is an indication this shooting could have been motivated by hate is chilling, and this possibility is being prioritised in the BPD’s investigation. The City of Burlington has zero tolerance for hate crimes and will work relentlessly to bring the shooter to justice.”
Jon Murad, Burlington’s chief of police, said in the news release that “no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime” but urges the public to “avoid making conclusions based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less.”
The ADC is calling on the police and the FBI to investigate it as a hate crime.
“We are aware of the incident in Burlington and are working with our state and local partners in Vermont,” a spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Albany, New York, told NBC News. “If, in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate.”
“We are praying for a full recovery of the victims, and will stand by to support the families in any way that is needed,” said Abed Ayoub, the ADC national executive director. “Given the information collected and provided, it is clear that the hate was a motivating factor in this shooting, and we call on law enforcement to investigate it as such. The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont) said in a statement the news are “deeply unsettling.”
“Hate has no place here, or anywhere,” Sanders said. “I look forward to a full investigation. My thoughts are with them and their families.”
Vermont Governor Phil Scott said in a statement that the shooting is a “tragedy” and Vermont’s federal partners are “ready to assist.”
“I urge Vermonters to unite to help the community heal, and not let this incident incite more hate or divisiveness,” Scott said. “We must come together in these difficult times ― it is the only way to put a stop to the violence we’re seeing.”