A Palestinian college student who was shot in Vermont over Thanksgiving weekend is paralyzed from the chest down after the attack and may never walk again, his family said.
Three 20-year-old students were walking in Burlington, Vermont, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when they were approached by a white man. Police allege Jason Eaton, 48, approached the trio as they were speaking in a mix of English and Arabic, didn’t say anything, and then pulled out a handgun before opening fire.
Eaton is being held without bail and police are investigating the shooting to determine if it was a hate crime.
Elizabeth Price, the mother of one of the students, Hisham Awartani, told NBC News on Sunday he was shot in the spine and that he may never be able to walk again.
“We are thankful that all three will survive this attack, and Hisham’s friends are expected to make a full recovery,” a GoFundMe started by his friends and family reads. “For Hisham, however, one of the bullets that struck him is lodged in his spine and has left him paralyzed from the chest down.”
“He has demonstrated remarkable courage, resilience and fortitude — even a sense of humor — even as the reality of his paralysis sets in.”
Price told NBC her son will go into intensive rehabilitation later this week and his family hopes “that will help with his prognosis.” She said he had feeling in his toes but wasn’t able to move them.
The two other students, Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Kinnan Abdalhamid, were also treated at the hospital for their injuries. Price told the Guardian the trio had comforted each other after the attack.
“I would say that they are brothers,” she told the publication. “And when they got shot, the hospital very kindly put all of them in one ICU room, and I think that was very instrumental in helping them to deal with the trauma of the experience.”
The shooting comes amid the war between Israel and Hamas and a surge in both antisemitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric around the globe.
Awartani said the shooting was emblematic of the broader conflict in a statement after the attack, which was read aloud to students at a vigil at Brown University, where has been studying.
“I am but one casualty in this much wider conflict,” he said in the statement. “Had I been shot in the West Bank where I grew up, the medical services which saved my life here would likely have been withheld by the Israeli army. The soldier who would have shot me would go home and never be convicted.”
“This is why when you send your wishes and later, candles for me today, your mind should not just be focused on me as an individual, but rather as a proud member of the people being oppressed.”