Hisham Awartani, a Palestinian college student, has been left paralyzed from the chest down after being shot in Vermont over the Thanksgiving weekend. Awartani, along with his two friends, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, were walking in Burlington when they were attacked. The incident occurred while they were conversing in English and Arabic and wearing traditional Palestinian scarves. Awartani’s mother, Elizabeth Price, stated that her son is scheduled to be released from the hospital next week and will undergo rehabilitation care.
The two other victims suffered gunshot wounds to their upper torso and lower extremities and were hospitalized in the ICU. One of them has since been released from the hospital. The suspect, 48-year-old Jason J. Eaton, was arrested and charged with three counts of attempted murder. Authorities are investigating whether the attack was motivated by hate.
Awartani’s mother expressed gratitude for the support received from around the world and stated that any excess funds raised through a GoFundMe campaign would be used to support other vulnerable Palestinians. The three students, who have been friends since grade school, were visiting Burlington for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Awartani’s uncle, Rich Price, mentioned that the students had attended a birthday party before the attack. Awartani recalled being suddenly on the ground when the shooting began, with one of his friends screaming in pain. After the shooter fled, Awartani managed to call 911. He suffered an incomplete spinal injury, a broken clavicle, a fractured thumb, and difficulty regulating his body temperature.
The investigation into the motive behind the attack is ongoing. Authorities have found a pistol and ammunition connected to the bullet casings at the scene during a search of Eaton’s apartment. Federal prosecutors are also considering whether the shooting may be classified as a hate crime.
The families of the victims have called for a full investigation and accountability, believing that their sons were targeted due to their Palestinian identity. Awartani, in a statement, highlighted the larger context of the conflict and expressed gratitude for the support received.