President Joe Biden said he was “horrified” to learn about the three 20-year-old college students of Palestinian descent who were shot Sunday in Vermont.
“We join Americans across the country in praying for their full recovery, and we send our deepest condolences to their families,” Biden said in a statement. “While we are waiting for more facts, we know this: There is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. Period. No person should worry about being shot at while going about their daily lives. And far too many Americans know a family member injured or killed as a result of gun violence. We cannot and we will not accept that.”
A white man shot college students Hisham Awartani and Kinnan Abdalhamid, both U.S. citizens, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, a legal U.S. resident, on the street Sunday in Burlington, Vermont, while the three were visiting Awartani’s family for Thanksgiving.
Police arrested a suspect late Sunday and charged him with three counts of attempted murder. Jason J. Eaton, 48, made a video appearance Monday in court as a not guilty plea was entered, according to The Associated Press. Bail had not been set.
Police said they are still investigating what motivated the shooting and have not declared it a hate crime, but the police said that the three men were speaking a mixture of English and Arabic at the time of the shooting and that two of them were wearing traditional keffiyeh scarves. The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said they have reason “to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three victims being Arab.”
The three men are all in the ICU and are expected to survive, although Awartani, a student at Brown University, has a spinal injury and will likely have a “lifelong” recovery ahead of him.
Rich Price, Awartani’s uncle, said at a Monday news conference that it’s a “tragic irony” the three men were targeted in America.
“My sister lives in the occupied West Bank, and people often ask me, ‘Aren’t you worried about your sister?’” Price said. “The reality is, as difficult as their life is, they are surrounded by an incredible sense of community. ‘Tragic irony’ is not even the right phrase, to have them come visit me on Thanksgiving and have something like this happen.”
The victims’ families said in a joint statement that they are “extremely concerned” about their children.
“We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime,” the statement says. “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. No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony. Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.”
The ADC said it wants the shooting to be investigated as a hate crime.
Abdalhamid is a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and Ali Ahmad studies at Trinity College in Connecticut.
In Biden’s statement Monday, he added: “Earlier today, I spoke to Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger to offer my support. We are grateful to the Burlington Police Department ― as well as the FBI, ATF, and other law enforcement partners ― for their swift work identifying and arresting a suspect. Our Administration will provide any additional federal resources needed to assist in the investigation.”