A peaceful Thanksgiving weekend turned tragic when 3 Palestinian college students shot in Vermontin an unprovoked attack. The incident in Burlington, Vermont, occurred on Saturday evening, has sparked widespread concern and outcry from civil rights organizations and the victims' families, calling for a thorough investigation into the motives behind this shocking crime. According to a newsrelease from the Burlington Police Department, the three 20-year-old men were receiving medical care, with two in stable condition and one sustaining more serious injuries. The students, visiting a relative, were walking on Prospect Street near the University of Vermont campus when they were confronted by an unidentified white male. "Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot," the police reported.
As detectives work tirelessly, collecting ballistic evidence and submitting it to federal databases, the motives of the attacker remain unclear. However, given that two of the victims were wearing traditional Palestinian keffiyehs and the nature of the attack, concerns about a bias-driven crime are rising. The police department noted, "There is no additional information to suggest the suspect’s motive," keeping the investigation open-ended.
Police Chief Jon Murad detailed the immediate response, stating that officers found two victims on the scene and the third nearby. All were quickly transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center for treatment. Despite these efforts, the shooter remains at large, with the community and law enforcement in the early stages of unraveling this heinous act.
In an interview with CNN, the families’ attorney Abed Ayoub described the incident as “a targeted shooting and a targeted crime,” emphasizing the unprovoked nature of the attack. "The suspect walked up to them and shot them. They weren’t robbed, they weren’t mugged," Ayoub remarked, highlighting the seemingly deliberate targeting of these students.
Identified as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ahmad, the students, who hail from Brown University, Haverford College, and Trinity College respectively, have deep educational roots, with all being alumni of the Ramallah Friends School in the West Bank. The families, in a joint statement, expressed their agony and demanded justice: "We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice... Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures."
US Senator Bernie Sanders and Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, echoed these sentiments, condemning the violence and calling for protection against hate crimes. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have also weighed in, with CAIR offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.
This incident occurs in a broader context of escalating tensions and hate crimes in the US. In recent weeks, following clashes between Hamas and Israeli forces, there has been a noticeable uptick in hate crimes, including the tragic stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy. This Burlington shooting, therefore, raises alarm bells about the safety and wellbeing of Arab and Muslim communities in the US.
As the investigation proceeds, the community, civil rights groups, and families await answers. They hope for swift justice and a deeper understanding of the motives behind this attack, which has shattered the peace of a quiet Vermont town and left an indelible mark on the lives of three young students and their families.