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What we know about the Burlington, Vt., triple shooting case

LOW REZ. USE NO LARGER THAN 1.5 INCHES WIDE FOR PRINT. 27BURLINGTON. Tahseen Aliahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Hisham Awartani (L-R) posing for a photograph. The three men were all injured in a triple shooting Saturday. Photo provided by their families through the Institute for Middle East Understanding.Photo provided by their families through the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

A 48-year-old man was ordered held without bail Monday for allegedly shooting three young men of Palestinian descent in Burlington, Vt. on Saturday evening.

Here’s a quick primer on what we know about the case.

The victims

The victims, all 20-year-old college students in the US, were identified as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad.

Awartani attends Brown University, Abdalhamid is enrolled at Haverford College, and Ali Ahmad studies at Trinity College, the schools have said.

Court papers indicate that Awartani was shot in the spine, Ali Ahmad was wounded in the chest, and Abdalhamid was shot in the glute area.

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“I think Kinnan’s injuries are, though difficult, he will make a full and speedy recovery,” said Rich Price, Awartani’s uncle, at a news conference Monday. “Tahseen is in quite a lot of pain. And my nephew Hisham received a spinal injury as a result of the shooting and faces a long recovery.”

A family spokesperson said Tuesday that Awartani is currently paralyzed from the waist down, with a bullet lodged in his T-2 vertebra, and may never regain the use of his legs.

The accused shooter

Authorities allege that Jason J. Eaton, who lives in an apartment on North Prospect Street where the shootings occurred, approached the trio as they were walking and speaking a mixture of English and Arabic. Two of the victims were wearing traditional Palestinian scarves called keffiyehs.

Eaton allegedly fired at the victims at close range with a .380 caliber handgun before fleeing the scene on foot.

He was arrested the following day at his apartment and told authorities words to the effect of “I’ve been waiting for you” before requesting a lawyer, according to a Burlington police affidavit filed in the case.

The affidavit said a search of Eaton’s apartment turned up items including .380-caliber pistol, ammunition, a Go Pro camera, a Savage model 20-gauge shotgun, a Savage .22 rifle, and an Ithaca model 20-gauge shotgun. Computer evidence was also seized.

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Eaton pleaded not guilty Monday to three counts of attempted second-degree murder and was ordered held without bail pending a detention hearing.

Officials believe that Eaton, who was terminated from his job with a financial services firm earlier this month, moved to Burlington from the Syracuse, N.Y. area over the summer.

A motive

A motive for the attack hasn’t been disclosed, but authorities are trying to determine if the triple shooting is a hate crime.

“Whether or not this is a hate crime by the law, it was a hateful act,” said Burlington police Chief Jon Murad during Monday’s briefing. “It’s one that we abhor, and anybody who steps out from a porch and attacks three random passersby, for whatever reason, is expressing a form of hate.”

Sarah George, state’s attorney for Chittenden County, said during the briefing that prosecutors currently don’t have the evidence to “support a hate crime enhancement,” but the investigation is ongoing. Eaton faces up to life in prison if convicted on the attempted murder counts, George said.

“I do want to be clear that there is no question this was a hateful act,” George said. “We currently live in a world of divisiveness and hate, rather than inclusion and love.”

The response from officials

The attack has drawn condemnation from local, state, and federal officials including President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

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“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 Monday. “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.”

Harris echoed those words on Tuesday, saying in a separate statement that she and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff were joining the president and First Lady Jill Biden in praying for the victims.

“We send our deepest sympathies to their families and to all those who have been impacted by this senseless violence,” said Harris, a former prosecutor.

“While the facts of this tragedy are still being investigated, we know that far too many people live with the fear that they could be targeted and attacked based on their beliefs or who they are,” Harris said. “We are grateful for the work of law enforcement and will continue to do all that we can to keep our communities safe from both hate and gun violence.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.