Police in Burlington, Vermont, say three Palestinian-American college students were shot and one of them critically wounded while on their way to a family dinner Saturday night.
A statement from the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee called on police to investigate the shootings as a hate crime. The civil rights organization said two of the three 20-year-old men – Hisham Awartani of Brown University; Kinnan Abdalhamid of Haverford University, and Tahseen Ahmed of Trinity University – were reportedly wearing kuffiyehs and speaking Arabic when they were shot. Kuffiyehs are traditional scarves worn by some in the Middle East. They’re also a symbol of Palestinian resistance.
"In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime," Burlington Chief of Police Jon Murad said in a news release.
"And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven."
He added, "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."
According to Ramallah Friends School, the West Bank school from which all three graduated, two of the victims are in the ICU, and one has "very critical and serious injuries," according to the ADC.
Two of the men are U.S. citizens and the other is a legal resident.
"It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, VT," U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said on X (formerly Twitter). "Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation. My thoughts are with them and their families."'
The three men were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center after being shot, police said. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Police had not identified a suspect as of Sunday afternoon. They described the shooter as a "white male with a handgun."
"Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot," police said.
The shootings come amid heightened tensions in the U.S. and abroad since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza.
In October, 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed to death by his landlord. Federal authorities are investigating the heinous murder as a hate crime. Prosecutors said the suspect, 71-year-old Joseph Czuba, was motivated by his obsession with the war between Israel and Hamas.
Czuba is also charged with attempted murder for stabbing Al-Fayoume’s mother. He reportedly approached her and said "he was angry at her for what was going on" in Israel, but when she told him they should pray for peace, he attacked her and her son with a knife.