Three Palestinian men shot in Vermont in possible hate crime, US authorities say

Shooter, a white man with a handgun who fired ‘without speaking,’ fled the scene; two of the victims were wearing black-and-white Palestinian keffiyehs

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

File: The campus of the University of Vermont, in Burlington, Vermont, on March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
File: The campus of the University of Vermont, in Burlington, Vermont, on March 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Three young Palestinian men were shot and injured in Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday while in the city for a Thanksgiving holiday gathering, in what may have been a hate crime, US authorities said Sunday.

One of the three was seriously hurt in the shooting near the University of Vermont.

The shooter has been identified only as a white man with a handgun, who, “without speaking… discharged at least four rounds” at the victims” before fleeing the scene, Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement.

Murad said all three victims were of Palestinian descent. Two are US citizens and one is a legal resident. Two of the men were wearing black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves.

“The fact is that we don’t yet know as much as we want to right now. But I urge the public to avoid making conclusions based on statements from uninvolved parties who know even less,” Murad said.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee appeared more confident that the shooting was racially motivated, saying in a statement that the victims were Palestinian American college students and that there was “reason to believe this shooting occurred because the victims are Arab.”

The man shouted and harassed the victims, who were conversing in Arabic, then proceeded to shoot them, ADC said, in an apparent contradiction to the report that he shot without speaking.

The outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war — sparked by an onslaught by Hamas terrorists on southern Israel on October 7 in which over 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were slaughtered — has seen a major uptick in antisemitism in the US and around the world but Islamophobia has also been on the rise as well. Last month, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy was killed and his mother was seriously injured when a man entered their Illinois home and opened fire, targeting them because of their heritage, police said.

An FBI spokesperson said the agency was in touch with local law enforcement about Saturday’s incident in Vermont and was prepared to open its own probe if “information comes to light of a potential federal violation.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the person or people responsible for the shootings, the organization said in a statement.

The White House said US President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident and Bernie Sanders — one of Vermont’s two US senators — condemned the “shocking and deeply upsetting” attack, saying he “looks forward to a full investigation.”

AP contributed to this report.

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