BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The last of the three college students of Palestinian descent who were shot and seriously injured in Vermont during their Thanksgiving break has been released from a Burlington hospital and will undergo rehabilitation.
Hisham Awartani, who is paralyzed from the chest down, left the University of Vermont Medical Center on a stretcher Wednesday to clapping, according to a video shared by his uncle Rich Price. Awartani waved with one hand to relatives gathered in the hallway as he was wheeled out. Some held up a Palestinian flag while others told him they loved him.
Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad are childhood friends who grew up in the West Bank and now attend colleges in the eastern U.S. The 20-year-olds were visiting Awartani’s relatives in Burlington for the Thanksgiving break when they were shot Nov. 25 near the University of Vermont. They were walking to Awartani's grandmother's for dinner when they were shot in an unprovoked attack, his family said.
The young men were speaking in a mix of English and Arabic and two of them were also wearing the black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves when they were shot, Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said. Authorities are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.
The suspected gunman, Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arrested the following day at his Burlington apartment. He's pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder and is currently being held without bail.
The shooting came as threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities have increased across the U.S. in the weeks since the the Israel-Hamas war erupted in early October.
A GoFundMe page has raised more than $1.3 million for Awartani's recovery.