Burlington police are investigating a shooting that injured three Palestinian American men — one critically — near the University of Vermont on Saturday evening. The police chief said the incident may have been motivated by hate.
The victims, all 20 years old, were in Burlington for a Thanksgiving family gathering and were wearing Palestinian keffiyeh scarves. They were walking near the UVM campus around 6:25 p.m. when a white man with a handgun approached them and opened fire without saying a word, according to Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad. The shooter then fled the scene.
The police chief said in a news release Sunday that two of the men sustained wounds to their torsos and one to his lower extremities. One of the men suffered “much more serious injuries” than the others, he said. Two of the victims are U.S. citizens and one is a legal resident.
Murad expressed his “deepest condolences” to the victims and their families and said he had contacted federal authorities to prepare for a possible hate crime investigation. He said there was no evidence to indicate the shooter’s motive, but he urged the public not to jump to conclusions based on “statements from uninvolved parties who know even less.”
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee issued a statement Sunday saying that the victims were Palestinian American college students and that they were verbally harassed by the shooter, who heard them speaking Arabic, before he shot them.
The FBI said it was aware of the shooting and would investigate if there was a potential federal violation. The White House said President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting and would receive updates as more information became available.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the shooter. The Institute for Middle East Understanding shared a statement from the victims’ families, who called for a thorough and hate crime investigation and said they were “extremely concerned” about their children’s safety and well-being.
U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called on people to “unequivocally denounce the startling rise of anti-Arab hate and Islamophobia in America” in response to the shooting. The New York Democrat said in a statement on X that no one should be targeted for their ethnicity or religion in the country. “We will not let hatred win,” he said.
Vermont leaders condemn possible hate crime shooting of three Palestinians
A shooting that wounded three Palestinians near the University of Vermont on Saturday evening has drawn strong condemnation from Vermont’s political leaders, who said the attack may have been driven by hate.
The victims, all 20 years old, were visiting Burlington for a Thanksgiving family gathering and were wearing Palestinian scarves. They were walking near the UVM campus when a white man with a gun shot them without uttering a word and then ran away, Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said. One of the men was critically injured, while the other two were in stable condition. Two of the victims are U.S. citizens and one is a legal resident.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, said he was “shocked and deeply upset” by the shooting and called for a full investigation. “Hate has no place here, or anywhere,” he said in a statement. “My thoughts are with them and their families.”
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the possibility that the shooting was motivated by hate was “chilling.” Gov. Phil Scott said it was a tragedy and urged Vermonters to unite and help the community heal. “We must not let this incident incite more hate or divisiveness,” he said. “We must come together in these difficult times — it is the only way to put a stop to the violence we’re seeing.”
The shooting occurred amid rising tensions and protests in the United States over the Israel-Hamas conflict. A four-day cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas was resumed on Sunday, after the militants released more hostages and Israel freed 39 Palestinian young men. It was the third prisoner swap under the truce agreement.