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A suspect is arrested in the shooting of 3 men of Palestinian descent in Vermont

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Vermont, authorities have arrested a suspect in the shooting of three young men of Palestinian descent. Police in Burlington announced in a press release that Jason J. Eaton was taken into custody Sunday afternoon after detectives completed a search of his residence near where the shooting took place. The 48-year-old is expected to be arraigned in court today. Earlier, authorities said it was too soon to call the incident a hate crime, but many in the community are worried that it is. Brittany Patterson with Vermont Public has this report.

BRITTANY PATTERSON, BYLINE: Police say the three victims were all 20-year-old college students who lived out of state and were visiting one victim's relative for Thanksgiving in Burlington, Vermont's largest city. The men were walking down a residential street wearing kaffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian scarf, when authorities say they were confronted by a white man with a handgun. On Sunday, Burlington's police chief said in a statement the alleged gunman did not speak before opening fire and the motive is unknown. Multiple civil rights groups and the families of the three victims want authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime, and they're not alone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: What kind of a crime?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Hate crime.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: What kind of a crime?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Hate crime.

PATTERSON: At a vigil in front of Burlington City Hall Sunday evening, a few hundred people gathered, including Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID ZUCKERMAN: I stand here to stand with oppressed people who now fear for their lives just walking down the street here in Burlington.

PATTERSON: Wafic Faour is with the group Vermonters for Justice in Palestine. He says since the Israel-Hamas war began last month, he's called his family many times a day to check in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WAFIC FAOUR: And today, I received so many calls from my family members to ask me how am I. Is that possible in Vermont? Yes, it is possible.

PATTERSON: Across the U.S., the FBI says it's seen a spike in threats and violence against Jewish, Arab and Muslim communities since the Hamas attack on October 7. Olivia Mosely (ph) came to the rally from nearby Essex.

OLIVIA MOSELY: I think it's hard not to see the attempted murder of three young Palestinians wearing the Palestinian kaffiyeh, the scarf, at a time when we're seeing increased attacks throughout the U.S. - yeah, I mean, I don't think it's possible to separate those things.

PATTERSON: The FBI is now helping in the investigation, but the Burlington police chief cautions it's still early, and he urged the public not to jump to conclusions about what happened Saturday night.

For NPR News, I'm Brittany Patterson in Burlington, Vt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Brittany Patterson

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