A suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting of three Palestinian college students in the US on Saturday, police have confirmed.
The three victims, all aged 20, were on their way to a Thanksgiving holiday dinner in Vermont when they were shot, Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement on Sunday.
A man, Jason J. Eaton, was detained after a search of his apartment “gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that (he) perpetrated the shooting,” police added, according to NBC News.
“Without speaking, (the suspect) discharged at least four rounds from the pistol,” Mr Murad said.
“All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities.”
The students were wearing the black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves and speaking in Arabic when they were shot, he added.
Two of the men are in stable condition while the other suffered “much more serious injuries,” Mr Murad added.
Relatives have identified the victims as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed.
Awartani is a student at Brown University, Abdalhamid is a student at Haverford College, and Ahmed is a student at Trinity College.
Two of the men are US citizens while the third is a legal resident.
Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, Mr Murad said.
“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime,” he said.
“And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven.
“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.”
Antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents including violent assaults and online harassment have spiked in the US since the Israel-Gaza war began in October.
Last month, an Illinois landlord was charged with a hate crime after being accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously wounding his mother in Chicago.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee released a statement Sunday saying that the victims were Palestinian American college students and that there is “reason to believe this shooting occurred because the victims are Arab.”
The shooting comes in the middle of a four-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas as both sides free numerous hostages.
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