A man has been arrested after three Palestinian students were shot in Vermont, in what their families are calling a hate crime.
The three men, all aged 20, were wearing keffiyehs – a traditional scarf – and speaking Arabic when they were attacked as they walked down a street in the city of Burlington on Saturday night, according to Sky News’ US partner NBC.
Police said a white man suddenly approached the trio without saying anything and then fired four rounds from a pistol before running away.
Suspect Jason J Eaton, 48, was arrested after a police search of his home “gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Mr Eaton perpetrated the shooting”, NBC reported.
Two of the men were hit in the torso, while the third was hit in the “lower extremities,” police said.
At the time, the group were on their way to visit one of the victim’s relatives for dinner over the Thanksgiving holiday.
One of the men, Kinnan Abdalhamid, was named by Haverford College as one of its students. The other two have been named as Brown University student Hisham Awartani and Tahseen Ahmed, who attends Trinity College in Connecticut.
All three received treatment in hospital. Mr Abdalhamid is recovering from a gunshot wound, Mr Awartani is expected to survive, and Mr Ahmed is in a stable condition, NBC reported, quoting senior officials from each of the men’s schools.
Their families said in a joint statement: “As parents, we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot.
“We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime. 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.”
They added: “Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.”
The men were all graduates of Ramallah Friends School, a secondary school in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to its Facebook page.
The school said in a statement: “We extend our thoughts and prayers to them and their families for a full recovery, especially considering the severity of injuries – as Hisham has been shot in the back, Tahseen in the chest, and Kinnan with minor injuries.”
Vermont senator and former Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, VT. Hate has no place here, or anywhere.”
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said the shooting had come during an “unprecedented surge” in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment in the US amid the Israel-Hamas war.
Ambassador Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK, posted a photo of the trio on social media and added: “The hate crimes against Palestinians must stop.”
The shooting follows the death of a six-year-old Palestinian-American who was stabbed 26 times in a suspected hate crime in Illinois last month.
Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said: “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.”
Two of the students hold US citizenship, while the third is living in the country legally, police added.
The FBI said it is “actively investigating the shooting” according to NBC, despite an earlier statement that said only a potential federal violation would lead to an investigation.
It said it was not yet treating the shooting as a hate crime.