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Mother of man charged with shooting three college students of Palestinian descent in Burlington, Vt., speaks out

SALISBURY, VT. — The mother of the Burlington, Vt., man charged with shooting three college students of Palestinian descent said Tuesday that her son wasn’t raised to harbor hatred for any group of people.

“I don’t believe this was a hate crime,” Mary Q. Reed, the mother of Jason J. Eaton, said in a brief interview on her doorstep about an hour south of Burlington, near the shore of Lake Dunmore.

“He’s not a hateful person,” Reed said of her 48-year-old son.

She said she’s hoping for the best for the three 20-year-old men who were shot and their families.

“I feel for the victims so much,’' she said.

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Reed also said she’s holding out hope that her son wasn’t the shooter.

“I’m his mother — I have to lean that way,” Reed said. “He’s my son, and I love him.”

Eaton is charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder for allegedly shooting Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad while they were walking near a relative’s home in Burlington Saturday night. He is being held without bail.

A family spokesperson said Tuesday that Awartani is currently paralyzed from the waist down with a bullet lodged in his T2 vertebra. A student at Brown University, Awartani may never walk again, the spokesperson said.

Investigators are trying to determine if the attack was a hate crime. Eaton did not say anything to the three men, who grew up together in the West Bank, before he opened fire on them near his apartment, officials said.

Also Tuesday, police in DeWitt, N.Y., released a report from Oct. 21, 2019, that described their interaction with Eaton, who was then living in the Syracuse area. At the time, a former girlfriend contacted police to report that Eaton had called her and texted repeatedly for the past two days and that she wanted it to stop, the report stated. The woman, 36, told police that she had told Eaton their relationship was over but that he continued to contact her.

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The woman said the messages were “sexual in nature but not threatening,” police wrote. She asked police to make it clear to him that their relationship was at an end and that he should never contact her again, the report stated. As officers were talking with the woman, Eaton drove by in a pickup truck, police wrote.

The woman told police “she did not want wish to press charges against Eaton. She stated that she would just like police to advise him to stop communicating with her,” according to the report. She said Eaton did not have access to guns.

Police pulled Eaton over and spoke with him, the report stated.

“He was under the impression that [the woman] still wanted to meet and see him. Eaton stated that [the woman] has sent him ‘mixed signals’ in the past about seeing each other,” police wrote. Eaton was told the woman “wants absolutely no contact with him from this point forward. Eaton said he understood.”

Eaton was not arrested, police said.

Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.



Sean Cotter can be reached at sean.cotter@globe.com. Follow him @cotterreporter. John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe.