Three college students of Palestinian family history out on a stroll in Vermont were critically injured over the weekend when a man shot them at close range on a downtown street, officials said Monday. The attack is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Jason J. Eaton, 48, appeared in court by video from jail on three charges of attempted murder on Monday, and a not guilty plea was filed on his behalf. He was detained without bail.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the US Department of Justice and Vermont authorities were examining whether Saturday's shooting constituted a hate crime, citing an uptick in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab populations across the US since the Israel-Hamas war began. "There is understandable fear in communities across the country," he went on to say.
The three males, all 20 years old, were out for a stroll while visiting one of the victims' relatives when they were approached by a white man armed with a pistol, according to authorities.
Sarah George, the state's attorney, stated at a press conference that law enforcement personnel do not yet have evidence to support a hate crime allegation, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt under Vermont law. Nonetheless, she stated, "I do want to be clear that there is no question that this was a hateful act."
"Whether or not it was a hate crime under the law, it was a heinous act." "It's one we despise," he remarked. "And anybody who steps out from a porch and attacks three random passersby for whatever reason, he's expressing a form of hate."
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger described the incident as "one of the most shocking and disturbing events in the city's history" and said he met with President Joe Biden on Monday.
Biden and his wife were shocked by the tragedy and hoped the youngsters would recover completely.
"While we wait for more facts, we know this: there is no place in America for violence or hatred." "No one should be afraid of being shot at while going about their daily lives," Biden stated in a statement.